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Japan women’s team aims to take season a notch higher

Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe and his 44 players were presented at a press conference on Monday

Tokyo, Japan, May 17, 2013 – The Japan women’s national team have started their preparation for the 2013 season towards big competitions such as the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix, FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship qualification, FIVB Women’s World Grand Champions Cup, and the Asian Championship.

Coach Masayoshi Manabe, who led the team to bronze at the London 2012 Olympic Games, has selected 44 players for the season. The Japan Volleyball Association presented all 44 players at a press conference on Monday.

“Our goal is to be at the top of the world (ranking), so I have set the team’s challenges this season towards that goal,” Manabe said. “I have never experienced being world No. 1 in my career. So, I would like to get advice from people who have won an Olympic gold medal and have been on top of the world ranking, and from people from fields other than sport.”

To obtain that goal Manabe named Japan’s ace spiker Saori Kimura to be the new captain of the team, replacing Erika Araki. As captain, Kimura is expected to be the team’s front-runner on and off the court.

“We have to start bracing ourselves to get the gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as early as now,” Kimura said on her strong motivation to achieve the team’s future goals. "This season, we need to work hard and prove ourselves to our fans. At first, I am a little bit worried whether I can lead the team because we have a large number of players, but now I am really excited about playing with these talented players in the same court.”

While the team will have plenty of new faces this season, setter Hitomi Nakamichi has the big task of filling the shoes left by chief playmaker Yoshie Takeshita due to retirement.

Takeshita was a big part of the Japanese offence and proved on numerous occasions how invaluable she is to the team. A huge portion of the offence ran through her and will definitely need someone to step up in her behalf. 

A bigger adjustment is most likely to be made since half of the players from Japan’s London 2012 roster have already left - including Ai Otomo, Megumi Kurihara, Maiko Kano, Mai Yamaguchi, and libero Yuko Sano.

To kick off their 2013 season, the team will have a training camp in Japan until Monday before leaving for their European tour, which includes the Montreux Volley Masters in Switzerland and friendly matches against Italy and the Netherlands.

“I chose young players for this tour to let them gain international experience. During the tour, I would like to find out if they are successful enough at the world level,” Manabe said.


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