No Takahashi, no problem for Japan in final stretch of VNL prelims

Luisa Morales - Philstar.com
No Takahashi, no problem for Japan in final stretch of VNL prelims
Yuki Ishikawa (left) and Yuji Nishida of Japan.

MANILA, Philippines — Japan stalwarts Yuki Ishikawa and Yuji Nishida said that the team is quick to recover even as star hitter Ran Takahashi’s stint at the 2024 VNL Manila leg was cut short on Friday night.

Takahashi, among fan favorites in the Philippines, was replaced in Japan’s lineup just hours before Japan faced the Netherlands in their second game of the leg.

Despite his absence, Ishikawa and Nishida stepped up to the plate as they drubbed the Dutch, 25-18, 25-19, 25-20, for their first win in two games.

After the match, the two veterans spoke about moving forward without one of their key players.

“I cannot say for the team but we have to play without him,” said skipper Ishikawa.

“And [Tatsunori] Otsuka was playing well, so we are so happy, and when someone [has an] injury, we have to play always. So we have a single body,” he added.

Meanwhile, Nishida admitted that there were some jitters for the Japanese team, but their motivation to play for Takahashi emerged as their driving force.

“Maybe, we were a little bit nervous, I think the guys are keeping the motivation and energy. So, I hope that [Ran] will come back much better at his game and join the team [again],” said Nishida.

Nishida and Ishikawa were Japan’s top two scorers against the Dutch, scoring 16 and 15 points, respectively, in three sets.

The duo will need to continue showing up for their team as Takahashi, who left to focus on recovery on a previous injury ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Per PNVF president Ramon Suzara, Takahashi already left the Philippines earlier Friday, this corroborates earlier social media posts that supporters saw the fan favorite at the airport.

Japan faces reigning Olympic champions France and Team USA in their remaining games on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

The Japanese are seeking entry into the Top 8 with their 7-3 slate.

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