They’re also planning to dish out a little revenge.
“We want to play passionately as a team and to perform our utmost in each game,” said Japan captain Erika Araki. “We don’t want to lose against any team or (one-on-one battles) against any player. And we definitely want to beat Thailand, the team we lost to in the Asian Championship recently.”
The loss to eventual gold medalists Thailand in the semifinals of the Asian Championship earlier this month resigned defending champions Japan to a third-place finish and put a bitter spin on what had otherwise been a successful summer for the team.
The theme of Japan’s women’s team this season is “To Know the World.” In order to achieve the goal, the team toured Europe for almost the entire month of June
Victory over Russia was one of the highlights of the 2009 FIVB World Grand Prix, and proved that Japan are a match for any team with a superior height advantage.
Tactics developed during the European tour — to serve strongly in order to unsettle the opponent, use speedy attacks and a new blocking system — started to show some positive results. In the Final Round in Tokyo Japan beat the Netherlands, who qualified from the preliminary rounds in second place.
The Japanese team in general, though, lacked consistency and finished the Grand Prix in sixth place with one win and four losses, one of which came at the hands of their fierce Asian rivals, China.
But now the focus is on the future, namely the World Grand Champions Cup to be held in Tokyo and Fukuoka from November 10-15.
The team will start their training camp for the competition on October 1, and intend to work on tactics, especially the rapidity of each play. And in order to increase the speed, the players need to stabilize their reception of serves and spikes.
“Until now, we focused on speed in our training,” said head coach Masayoshi Manabe said. “But when we make a single mistake during the game, we lose many points in a row, and that makes us suffer, so we don’t want to make any mistakes.”
While the Drawing of Lots for the tournament was held on September 15 in Tokyo, it is still unclear which teams Japan will be playing come November, with teams from NORCECA, Europe, South America and one FIVB wild card yet to be determined. So far only Japan (as hosts) and Thailand (as Asian title holders) have earned their berths.
Despite not knowing which opponents his team will face each competition day, coach Manabe is looking for a strong start and a podium finish.
“The Grand Champions Cup is a very short competition with only five games, Manabe said. “We want to win the first game on November 10 to set the rhythm and hopefully win as many games as possible against the world’s top teams, and to win at least the bronze.”
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS