The Nagoya Wolfdogs came out on top of a tough battle that involved five teams and three Final Round spots in the men’s Japanese V. League and are guaranteed a place in the gold medal match series of the tournament, which will start next week.
Wolfdogs push to finish first in V. League’s regular season
The Sunbirds and the Panthers are also headed to the Final Round in Japan
Published 01:30, 04 Apr 2022
Winners of the V. League in 2015-2016, the Wolfdogs confirmed their presence in the Final Round on Saturday, when they defeated the Panasonic Panthers 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-15) with a 37-point (34 kills, three blocks) performance by Polish star opposite Bartosz Kurek.
The team from Nagoya were able to finish first in the standings despite losing to the same Panthers on Sunday, also in four sets (23-25, 25-23, 25-27, 19-25), in a match in which Kurek scored 28 points, all in kills. The Wolfdogs ended the regular season with 27 wins and nine losses and, as the best-ranked team in the standings, will go straight to the gold medal match series.
They ended the regular season ahead of the Suntory Sunbirds due to their better set ratio - the defending champions also had 27 wins and nine losses in their campaign. In the final weekend, the Sunbirds defeated the JTEKT Stings 3-0 (27-25, 27-25, 25-17) on Saturday and 3-1 (20-25, 25-22, 25-19, 25-21) on Sunday.
Russian star opposite Dmitry Muserskiy produced 54 points in the two matches, delivering 24 (21 kills, three aces) on Saturday and 30 (26 kills, four aces) on Sunday. The Sunbirds will now meet the third-placed Panthers, who finished ahead of the Toray Arrows and the Sakai Blazers with 25 wins and 11 losses.
The second and third-placed teams in the regular season will play on April 9 for the right to face the leaders Wolfdogs in the two-legged final, which will take place on April 10 and 17. Because they ended the regular season at the bottom of the standings, at ninth and tenth places respectively, the Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler and the VC Nagano will have to play in the relegation playoffs, where they will face the top teams in the country’s second division to try to remain in the elite of Japanese men’s volleyball next season.
The women’s V. League also concluded its regular season over the weekend and the Hisamitsu Springs were the biggest winners. The seven-time national champions won both of their matches against direct opponents NEC Red Rockets and took the last spot available to join the JT Marvelous and the Toray Arrows in the Final Round.
The Springs were dominating, winning 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-18) on Saturday and also took all three points on Sunday with their 3-1 (26-24, 25-20, 17-25, 25-21) victory to end the regular season with 23 wins and ten losses.
American Olympic champion middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo and former Japan national team outside hitter Arisa Inoue were instrumental to the Springs’ qualification as they produced 31 and 33 points, respectively, across the two matches.
The Springs will play the Arrows on April 9 with the winners will advanc to meet the Marvelous on April 10 and 16. The 11th-placed Victorina Himeji and the 12th-placed Kurobe Acqua Fairies will be the teams to play in the relegation playoffs.