A STRONG Japanese squad that once competed against Ateneo de Manila University will be flying over to serve as the fourth team in the final round of the Belo Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference starting Thursday at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.
Kobe Shinwa Women’s University will be arriving on Tuesday to grace a press launch before plunging into action against Foton, Cignal and unbeaten Petron in the final round of this club tourney bankrolled by Mikasa, Senoh, Asics and Mueller with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
A legitimate contender in the All-Japan Women’s University Tournament, the guest squad is tipped to march into battle with the signature speed, accuracy, skills and discipline of a Japanese team that would give local squads tough nights.
Kobe Shinwa, in fact, gave the Lady Eagles a ringside view of Asian brand of volleyball when it faced them in a friendly match in Osaka last January.
“This team is one of the best university teams in Japan,” said PSL president Ramon ‘Tats’ Suzara, who enjoys good working relationship with his Japanese counterparts being a ranking member of the Asian Volleyball Confederation and the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB).
“As we know, Japanese volleyball players are not the tallest or the strongest, but they are the fastest and most disciplined. I hope we could absorb those traits and use them when we compete in the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship and the SEA Games this August.”
Suzara was also instrumental in bringing noted Japanese trainer Shun Takahashi and Hiroshima Oilers libero Yuri Fukuda to the country when they powered the PSL Manila squad in the prestigious FIVB Women’s Club World Championship last year.
Led by head coach Kiyokazu Yamamoto, Kobe Shinwa will parade middle blocker Yu Moriwaki as its tallest player at 5-foot-7 and libero Manaka Fukui as its shortest at 5-foot-2.
Still, this squad will surely be a force as it finished fifth place in the tough All-Japan University Women’s Volleyball Tournament; fifth in the Western Japan University Volleyball Tournament; and third in the Kansai Area University Volleyball League.
“We are pleased to participate in the final round of the Philippine Superliga by showing our best level of volleyball in celebration of our 130th anniversary,” said the team in a press statement.
“And as we play with both heart and harmony, we look forward to having more friends and fans from the Philippines to join our circle of ‘shinwa.’
But Suzara said winning over the Japanese is very possible.
“Last year, nobody thought that RC Cola-Army would win over our foreign guest team in Est Cola, which is the national juniors team of Thailand,” he said.
“I think nothing is impossible. Our coaches would surely take this as a challenge and prepare their respective teams to defend our homecourt.”