At the halfway point in the 21-match regular season for the Japanese Men’s V.League, the Panasonic Panthers have essentially a 4-win lead over their nearest competitor Toray Arrows. Panasonic needs a combination of 5 (Panasonic wins and Suntory or Sakai losses) to clinch a berth in the Final 6 playoffs. Panasonic as a team leads in three of four major categories: kill percentage, blocks per set and service efficiency. This makes them a dangerous team, but also having three offense stars to choose from on offense does not hurt either, Kunihiro Shimizu, Tatsuya Fukuzawa and Michal Kubiak.
Today the Panthers faced the Osaka neighbors Suntory Sunbirds. Panasonic had won five straight matches, while Suntory were looking get back into the win column after a loss to JT Thunders in their last match. Panasonic did not let the Sunbirds into the match sweeping them 3-0. Poland’s Michal Kubiak for Panasonic was his all-world self 23 points through 15 kills, 4 blocks and 3 aces. Yadian Escobar had 12 (1k, 1b) in a losing cause for Suntory. The Panthers won both sides of the net +8 in kills (41-33) and +6 in blocks (10-4). Also, Panasonic dominated at the service line with +10 points (+5 aces (6-1) and -5 errors (7-12).
The Toray Arrows tried to keep pace with the Panthers as they faced the Sakai Blazers. The Blazers in 7th were looking to have their second straight win. Both teams split the first two sets, but Sakai dominated the 3rd set 25-18. Toray needed to win the fourth set for the match to go to a fifth set. The set was very close going into extra points, with Sakai taking the set 31-29 and the match 3-1. A big upset by the Blazers. Brazilian Wallace Martins of Sakai led all scorers with 44 points. Martins had 4 blocks and 4 aces to go along with 36 points. His teammate Takashi Dekita had 12 points (7k, 2b, 3a) in the win. Canadian Gavin Schmitt for Toray had 24 points (23k, 1b) in the loss. The loss keeps Toray in 2nd place, but almost put their chance of catching Panasonic for the regular season title out of their grasp.
Toyota Gosei Trefuerza faced JTEKT Stings. Trefuerza were once again without their Croatian superstar Igor Omrcen, had lost 4-in-a-row and were desperate to keep their position in the standings. Against JTEKT, they had contributions from the entire team to sweep the match 3-0. Their starting line each contributed 9 points or more in the win. Takuya Takamatsu led all scorers with 16 points (13k, 1b, 2a) for Toyota. JTEKT’s Bulgarian Matey Kaziyski had 13 points (12k, 1a) in the loss. The win kept the Trefuerza in 4th, just a point behind 2nd and 3rd place.
JT Thunders met bottom dwellers FC Tokyo, who were still looking for their first win on the season. The Thunders dominated the first two sets, but Tokyo won the third set in extra points 27-25. JT cameback in the fourth set in their dominant form to win the match 3-1. Australian Thomas Edgar led JT in scoring with 32 points (28k, 3b, 1a), while Bosnian Milan Pepic had 25 points for FC Tokyo. JT with win hold onto 3rd place.
Statistical Category Leaders
Thomas Edgar (JT Thunders) 322 points
Wallace Martins (Sakai) 307 points
Gavin Schmitt (Toray) 253 points
Hideyuki Kuriyama (FC Tokyo) 59.3%
Tatsuya Fukuzawa (Panasonic) 56.2%
Kunihiro Shimizu (Panasonic) 55.7%
Blocks per Set
Kenji Shirasawa (Panasonic) 0.84
Akitomo Kanamaru (JTEKT) 0.78
Takaaki Tomimatsu (Toray) 0.66
Michal Kubiak (Panasonic) 15.8
Yadrian Escobar (Suntory) 14.8
Matey Kaziyski (JTEKT) 14.7
Results for Matchday 11, December 2, 2017
Panasonic Panthers 3-0 Suntory Sunbirds (25-18, 25-14, 25-19)
Sakai Blazers 3-1 Toray Arrows (19-25, 25-20, 25-18, 31-29)
Toyota Gosei Trefuerza 3-0 JTEKT Stings (25-19, 25-22, 25-20)
JT Thunders 3-1 FC Tokyo (25-19, 25-18, 25-27, 25-19)
Schedule for Matchday 12, December 3, 2017
Sakai Blazers vs. Suntory Sunbirds
Panasonic Panthers vs. Toray Arrows
Toyota Gosei Trefuerza vs. FC Tokyo
JT Thunders vs. JTEKT Stings