Ruse, Bulgaria, May 23, 2019 – Japanese captain Nana Iwasaka is not under any illusion as they strive to reach their goal of reaching the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals.

Japan missed the 2018 Finals and also failed to reach the podium by hosting the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in Japan and finishing fourth.

A number of young players joined the 29-year-old middle blocker in the squad who have yet to make their national team debut. Yuri Yoshino, Mai Irisawa, Miyu Nakagawa and Nanami Seki are four new faces that will strengthen the team and build their VNL experience.

“What I learned last year was that there were so many matches against high-level opponents and they’re tall, hard and strong and we’ve got to try and challenge them,” Iwasaka said in the tournament build-up.

“But we’ve still faced problems on our own, so we’ll have to adjust to that this year. We also have new players this year and if we’re going to challenge this year, they have to settle in. This year’s one goal is to reach the final round.”

Japan has started the mixed form of the 2019 VNL. They started with a 3-1 win over Bulgaria (25-23, 21-25, 25-19, 25-23), but then lost 3-1 (21-25, 26-24, 21-25, 20-25) to the 2018 VNL champions.

The team of Kumi Nakada finishes one week with a match against Belgium. They take Turkey, Russia and Germany in Ankara in week two and then travel to Hong Kong in week three to face China, Italy and the Netherlands.

In week 4, Japan hosts Serbian, Brazil and Thailand world champions in Tokyo. It will focus on the minds of Japan’s players as it takes place just over a year before the start of the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 where Japan is expected to finish among the medals as the host nation.

“Tokyo’s round four is very exciting because it’s one year before the Olympic Games and so Japan is currently very focused on its volleyball,” Nakada said.

“Any nation is also interested in volleyball, and high-level teams will be coming to Japan, so we’re excited. Japanese fans are looking forward to the VNL.”

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