Top Scorer: Erika Araki (JPN)

Japan’s positive showing in the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Nations League marks the dawn of a second coming for Erika Shinomiya, nee Araki, as captain.

Araki who skippered Japan to a bronze medal victory at the London 2012 Olympic Games is leading again in a season of transition for Kumi Nakada’s new batch of hopefuls along with her experienced juniors Miyu Nagaoka and Sarina Koga.

Nagaoka’s return was celebrated by the fans and Koga is back in the limelight as an improved player. Araki, on the other hand, is carving out her niche for her team as she adopts her status as leader and role player rather than superstar.

Top Scorer: Erika Araki

It seems that the 36-year-old is getting tougher and wiser each year, and whether she is on or off the court, great things happen to her team.

Japan recorded a perfect record in Week 1, then started Week 2 with a loss against Brazil. Araki, however, scored 16 points and spearheaded Japan’s five-set comeback win over Italy and contributed five markers in their 3-0 triumph over Russia to improve their record to 5-1.

“This victory is very important for us. Two days ago we lost to Brazil and we had to fix some aspects of our game. Therefore these two wins against Italy and Russia are important for us. Our attack worked very well,” she said.

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The Japanese captain highlighted the impact of Koga and youngsters Ai Kurogo, Mayu Ishikawa and Aki Momii in the team's success at the VNL.

“Sarina Koga is really great because she has very good skills and she is a consistent player with no ups and downs. And this is important for us at the VNL because she can always show a good performance for us. She is a very important player in our team right now.

“The young players in our team are giving us power and they are improving our offence.”

Japan will face the Netherlands, Canada and Poland in Week 3, but Araki underlined the importance of the break in terms or preparing to take on these teams.

“We have more matches coming up, so we have to rest and do our best in these next matches.”