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Kurashiki returning next year

SKIPPER Kyoka Oshima and the rest of the Kurashiki Ablaze will return next year. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PVL

Kurashiki Ablaze will be back next year to defend their Premier Volleyball League Invitation Conference crown.

League president Ricky Palou assured the Japanese club of a return ticket to the country for a crack to extend its reign in the mid-season tournament.

“They already asked if they could come for next year. I told them, ‘Of course we will invite you again to defend your crown,’” Palou said following the successful staging of the internationally-flavored competition.

The Ablaze went unbeaten in their title run, winning all of their six games including an exciting, 19-25, 25-23, 25-19, 20-25, 15-13, victory over dethroned Creamline in the gold medal match last Sunday to complete their conquest.

Kurashiki along with Vietnamese team Kinh Bac-Bac Ninh were invited to join four other local clubs in the round-robin semifinals of the tournament’s second edition.

Flexing their vaunted floor defense and disciplined volleyball, the Ablaze were no match to their rivals as they secured a seat to the grand finale to challenge the Cool Smashers, who they beat in four sets in their first meeting.

Asaka Tamaru, who was named 1st Best Open Spiker, fired 29 points including the championship-clinching ace to lead three other Kurashiki players in double figures in the top podium match.

Skipper Kyoka Ohshima was awarded the final Most Valuable Player.

Head coach Hideo Suzuki expressed his intention to have the team back for a title-retention bid.

“I hope our best friend Ricky (Palou) will invite us again. We promise 100 percent we’ll be back,” Suzuki said as his squad built momentum heading into their Japan V.League Division III campaign starting in November.

Palou welcomed Suzuki’s interest with a smile.

“Surely, they will be back,” he said.

The PVL official added that Kurasashiki players enjoyed their two-week stay in the Philippines and were overwhelmed by the warmth and love shown by Filipino fans.

“In fact, the Japanese team, except for the coaching staff, it’s their first time here in the Philippines. For some of them, it’s their first time to go out of Japan. They enjoyed their stay here,” Palou said.

“They never experienced volleyball in Japan like what they experienced [here]. They were really surprised. They had a great time playing here in front of a jam-packed and lively crowd.”

Kurashiki Ablaze flew back to Japan on Monday bringing with them not only the title but a memorable experience playing in front of volleyball-crazy Filipinos.

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