A high school student was called up to Japan’s national volleyball team it was revealed on Wednesday, when the Japan Volleyball Association announced the 27-woman squad for its upcoming international competitions.
Airi Miyabe, who helped Kinrankai High School in Osaka win the national high school tournament earlier this year, was among the five newcomers to the Japan team. Nozomi Tsuchida (Ageo Medics), Nanaka Sakamoto (Denso Airybees), Sayaka Iwasaki (NEC Red Rockets) and Mio Sato (Toyota Auto Body Queenseis) were also called up for the first time.
“I am very nervous surrounded by other Japan members, but this is a great chance for me to improve myself,” said the 16-year-old Miyabe, who has a Nigerian father and Japanese mother. “My weapon is the high hitting point. I want to see how I can play against the top-level (players) of the world.”
The 181-cm Miyabe is the third tallest player on the national team, following only Saori Kimura (185) and Riho Otake (182).
Japan will play in the annual Montreux Masters in Switzerland on May 26-27 before taking part in the month-long World Grand Prix, from July 3 to Aug. 2, which is being held in nine different nations.
After that is the World Cup, which takes place in Japan from Aug. 22 to Sept. 6. The top two finishers, for both men and women, at the World Cup earn berths for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“We’ll have a tough schedule this year because we have less then a month between the World Grand Prix and the World Cup,” Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe said. “It is tough to have to peak twice during such a short period. Our goal is to earn the berth at next year’s Olympics (by finishing the top two at the World Cup). We’ll make the best team for the start of the World Cup.”
“We all need to improve our skills and techniques and every one of us have to know that to win,” Japan captain Kimura said. “You need teamwork to play other countries. It’s my job to unite the team as one and make the good chemistry in the team.”