FRANCE’S men’s team and Japan on the women’s side had a memorable trip to the Philippines as they swept their respective assignments in the Volleyball Nations League at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Tokyo Olympics gold medalists dominated their four matches in the country, capping the run with a four-set win over Germany, 25-16, 25-19, 19-25, 25-21, on Sunday.
Stephen Boyer also added 16 points then shared his glee about playing in front of this enthusiastic Big Dome crowd.
Earvin Ngapeth unloaded 18 points to go with a team-high nine digs and four receptions as the French improved to a league-best 7-1 record.
“For me, it is the first time that I discovered the Philippines. It’s nice to play here in this gym. It’s really great to play here,” Boyer said.
France earlier posted straight set victories over China, 25-0, 25-0, 25-0; Netherlands, 25-14, 25-23, 25-13; and Japan, 25-22, 27-25, 25-16.
Sarina Koga, meanwhile, anchored Japan to a four-match sweep in the Quezon City leg which it ended with a four-set win over China, 19-25, 25-16, 25-23, 25-12, last June 19.
The NEC Red Rockets standout poured in 22 points, including 4 blocks, 15 digs and five receptions as the Japanese captivated the local fans.
Arisa Inoue, the other half of the Japanese 1-2 punch, added 15 points, including two service aces, and six digs as their side stayed at the top of the standings at 8-0.
It followed up Japan’s stupendous wins over Poland, 25-21, 25-21, 25-21; Bulgaria, 25-20, 25-16, 25-23; and Thailand, 25-22, 25-16, 25-14.
Also noteworthy were the Japanese men’s team and the United States women’s team, which captivated the Manila fans in their matches.
Japan was absolute crowd darlings with Ran Takahashi drawing the biggest cheers inside Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Ryujin Nippon were also impressive on the court, ending their run with a 25-21, 22-25, 25-18, and 25-19 victory over Slovenia on Sunday.
Tatsu Otsuka hammered 13 kills to go with 10 receptions and eight digs, while Yuji Nishida had two service aces to finish with 12 markers aside from collecting eight digs and seven receptions for the Japanese which currently hold a 6-2 card in the men’s division.
Japan also scored wins over Argentina, 27-25, 25-18, 17-25, 25-16; and Italy, 25-20, 21-25, 24-26, 25-19, 15-13, before its loss to leader France.
US, on the other hand, sat at second place in the women’s tournament with its 7-1 card after its own four-match domination in Quezon City.
Ali Frantti anchored the Americans as they drubbed Bulgaria, 25-20, 25-22, 25-20; Poland, 25-12, 25-21, 25-16; China, 25-21, 25-23, 25-21; and Thailand 17-25, 25-13, 25-23, 25-18, in this leg.
“Oh, it’s unbelievable! I couldn’t hear myself on the court,” she said. “The fans are so loud. It was an unbelievable experience I won’t forget. It’s amazing how you guys love volleyball so much. I really appreciate it.”
The men’s competition now moves to Osaka, Japan and Gdansk, Poland for the next two weeks before the final round in Bologna, Italy, while the women’s tournament heads to Calgary, Canada and Sofia, Bulgaria ahead of the final round in Ankara, Turkey.