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Tsukuba head coach says Team Sparkle lacks ‘combinations’


There is no denying that first impressions last. So University of Tsukuba made sure to send a strong statement when it raised the curtains to its PSL Super Cup campaign on Tuesday evening.

The reigning title holder of the All-Japan Intercollegiate Volleyball Championship — a tournament considered the “largest-scale amateur sport event” in the Asian country — lived up to their billing in the face of a Filipina-laden selection team.

Flaunting their overwhelming pace, depth and offensive fluidity, the Japanese whipped Team Sparkle into submission with a straight-set 25-8, 25-12, 25-20 decision. In the process, they showcased the astronomical difference between a team built on years of hard work and one that is comprised of hand-picked talents with little to no cohesion.

“We are lucky, today is our first day and I think the Team Sparkle are good, but they don’t have enough combination so we are lucky today,” remarked Tsukuba mentor Nakanashi Yasumi, who deployed each weapon at his disposal in an hour and 13 minutes of action.

Marina Takahashi emerged as the lone double-digit scorer in the match, showing the way for nine of her teammates who logged in a point in their curtain-raiser. The third-year student-athlete proved to be a staunch middle blocker, collecting five kill blocks plus 10 attacks and an ace en route to 16 points. She also had seven excellent digs to her name.

Miku Isogai came just a point shy of breaching twin-digit territory, providing nine markers. Ami Yamashuro and Syuri Kurata contributed seven points each, while Kyomi Hayakawa chimed in six. Tsukuba team captain Miho Yokota generated the offense for the Japan contingents with 14 excellent sets.

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The Philippine-based squad still posed a tough challenge for the Japanese in the decisive third frame. However, Yasumi bared that he enjoyed the luxury of shuffling his rotation, pulling out his starters at the late juncture of the match.

“First set is our regular members, and in the second and third sets is our bench members,” the Japanese mentor said.

“In this tournament, all the members are going to help.”

Looking to stick with his goal of veering away from fixed rotations, Yasumi and his wards will continue to take in the experience as the tournament goes along.

The Japanese squad next face Team Shine on Thursday, November 7, at the same venue.

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