After last weekend’s dominance by the Hisamitsu Springs in Match 1 of the Final of the Japanese Women’s V.League, the JT Marvelous had to win in order to force a “Golden Set.” With the Springs only having lost once all season, the Marvelous appeared to have a huge mountain to climb. The Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium hosted the second match with a crowd of 4,822.
In the first set, the Springs jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, with two kills by Yuki Ishii and an aces by Rika Nomoto, which forced the Marvelous to take a time out. However, the timeout did not stop the avalanche as the Springs took a 7-0 lead before a service error. The Marvelous had to just think to themselves, “Are we going to get blown out again in the first set after last weekend’s nine points?” JT did get to within five points at 11-6, but the Springs ran off another six point run, for a 17-6 lead and coasted to win the set 25-14, 1-0 set lead.
In the second set, JT had 6-3 lead, but the Springs went on a four-point run to come from behind and take a 7-6 lead. After that run, both teams stayed within one point of each other until a Brankica Mihajlovic block on Foluke Akinradewo for a JT 13-11 lead. Akinradewo then replied with two straight kills to tie the set at 13. JT did take a 15-13 lead, but the Springs used consecutive hitting errors by Mihajlovic to take a 16-15 lead at the second TTO. A Nana Iwasaka block after the break made it 17-15 Springs and the Marvelous took their first time out of the set. Iwasaka blocked Mihajlovic from a back row attack and made it 18-15. Iwasaka then followed with a block on Mai Okumura to give them a 20-16 lead and forced the Marvelous to take their final time out of the set. A Risa Shinnabe deep corner spike gave the Springs a five point lead at 22-17, comfortably taking the set 25-21, 2-0 set lead for Hisamitsu.
The Marvelous with their backs against the wall needed something to get them back into the match in the third set. However a quick 5-2 lead by the Springs forced JT to take their first time out. At the first TTO the Springs had extended the lead to four at 8-4. The lead remained around that level until a dig kill by Hisamitsu. Mihajlovic spiked from the left front crosscourt at the ten foot line towards Rika Nomoto. The ball hits Nomoto’s left shoulder and bounces off of it back over to JT’s side of the net. The ball flies over the coverage of Mihajlovic’s spike and lands in the back corner for a Hisamitsu point, 12-7. JT were able to get back within two points at 13-11, but a mistimed set to Mihajlovic in the back row made it a three point lead for the Springs. At the second TTO, Hisamitsu had pushed it back to five points at 16-11. After a foot fault on a back row attack by Mihajlovic, JT used their final time out at 19-13 Springs. Risa Shinnabe spiked off the JT block to end the set at 25-20 and sweep the match 3-0 for the Springs 6th V.League Championship. With the championship win, Hisamitsu as a team receive 15 million yen in prize money (US$141,562 according to oanda.com exchanged rates). The Springs have been the dominant team all season and even with a shock loss to JT in the last match of the Final 6, Hisamitsu refocused on the goal of winning the championship, which they did comfortably.
The Springs won this match with their spiking. Hisamitsu had 11 more kills (45-34) and 7 fewer hitting errors (3-10) than JT for an 18 point advantage in a three-set match. Hisamitsu used its balanced offense all season long to win and today was no different. Yuki Ishii with 14 (all kills), Rika Nomoto 13 (12k, 1b), Foluke Akinradewo 11 (10k, 1a) and Risa Shinnabe 7 (6k, 1a). Nana Iwasaka had four blocks to go with three kills for 7 points. Brankica Mihajlovic for JT was the leading scorer in the match with 20 points (15k, 1b, 4a), but none of her teammates reached double figures. With Hisamitsu’s balanced strength, she needed their help to even win one set, let alone a match.
With the conclusion of the Women’s Premier League, the V.League announced their end of the season awards and Best Six (plus libero) players. Yuki Ishii was named the MVP for the season. In my mind, it is a fair decision, but Foluke Akinradewo‘s acquisition by the Springs was easily the biggest move of the year. Akinradewo’s blocking and spiking ability pushed the Springs to a level that made them nearly unbeatable. Akinradewo was named to the Best Six for the season. Mihajlovic for JT was also named to the Best Six and given the Fighting Spirit Award, because without her, they do not finish second. Erika Araki‘s blocking for Toyota also put her in the Best Six. Neriman Ozsoy was the leading scorer in the league and was also recognized in the Best Six. Rounding out the Best Six was Misaki Tanaka for the JT Marvelous as setter. JT’s Mako Kobata was named the Best Libero. Ai Kurogo for the Toray Arrows was named the rookie of the year, but there were not many rookie players that stood out this season. Kurogo at times played well, but at others looked out of sorts even compared to her teammates.
With next season the V.League will enter a new era as teams will have licensing requirements and the top league will expand the number of teams at the top level. It will be exciting to see how the league develops in the off-season and Volleymob.com will be tracking those stories for you.
Result for Match 2 of Final, March 17, 2018
- Hisamitsu Springs 3-0 JT Marvelous (25-14, 25-21, 25-20)
- Hisamitsu wins series 2-0
- Hisamitsu wins 6th Championship, first in two years
Women’s Premier League Best Six Players
- Brankica Mihajlovic, JT Marvelous
- Yuki Ishii, Hisamitsu Springs
- Neriman Ozsoy, Toyota Auto Body Queenseis
- Erika Araki, Toyota Auto Body Queenseis
- Foluke Akinradewo, Hisamitsu Springs
- Misaki Tanaka, JT Marvelous
- Mako Kobata, JT Marvelous
Rookie of the Year
Fighting Spirit Award
Most Valuable Player of the Year Award