Muserskiy ends Suntory Sunbirds’ 14-year V.League title drought

The Russian wins V.League title in his third season

The towering Dmitriy Muserskiy claimed the Japan V.League title after three seasons as the Suntory Sunbirds snapped a 14-year-long title drought with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-20) triumph over Panasonic Panthers at the Funabashi Arena on Sunday.

The 32-year-old Russian Olympic gold medallist went on a scoring spree tallying 28 points and Japan captain Masahiro Yanagida added 11 markers in their straight-set conquest of the Panthers. Poland captain Michal Kubiak led the Panthers with 13 points, while Kunihiro Shimizu and Issei Otake scored only six points each.

The match started with a tight first set, as neither team led by more than two points until Muserskiy and Yanagida’s successful consecutive blocking efforts allowed them to gain momentum and win the set. An even tighter contest ensued, as attackers of both sides bombarded each other with strong and sharp spikes, but Yanagida’s backrow hit gave the Sunbirds a 2-0 edge.

Muserskiy and Yanagida’s heroics continued in the third set, as the Russian displayed great control of net defence, while the Japanese outside hitter conquered the service line. The Panthers’ attackers tried to keep up in offence and defence, but their rivals were determined and rallied to win their eighth V.League title.

The Suntory Sunbirds first won the V.League in the 1994/1995 season, then made their most successful run in their history winning five titles in a row from 1999 to 2004. Their seventh title came in the 2006/2007 season.

“I would like to thank and congratulate the players who won the championship,” Suntory Sunbirds coach Kota Yamamura said. “Our opponent Panasonic Panthers are really a strong team and I expected this to be a tough match. We were able to win with the power of the Sunbirds organisation.

“We would like to thank all the people involved and the fans who supported us in this long season. The Sunbirds are a growing team. Let’s continue to raise the excitement for everyone who loves volleyball.”

On Saturday, Panasonic Panthers faced Wolfdogs Nagoya in the Final 3 round, with the former pushing to record a win and advance to the final for the first time in two years.

The Panthers’ setter Hideomi Fukatsu directed a fast-paced game, while Kunihiro Shimizu and Poland captain Michal Kubiak led the offence with strong serves to lead 8-5 in the early stages. The Wolfdogs, however, then implemented strong defence on Kubiak to snatch the opening set win.

The Panthers regained their composure and tied the match at 1-1, but Bartosz Kurek and Kenta Takanashi delivered in offence to save the next two sets for the Wolfdogs and triumph at 3-1 (25-23, 21-25, 25-19, 27-25).

In the golden set, Kubiak got his scoring rhythm back with the help of setter Shin Takahiro, who connected well with hitters Kubiak, Issei Otake and Kenyu Nakamoto to edge Nagoya Wolfdogs 25-21.

For more information, visit the V.League website.

Match results for April 3, 2021
Final 3: Wolfdogs Nagoya - Panasonic Panthers 3-1 (25-23, 21-25, 25-19, 27-25)
Final 3 Golden Set: Panasonic Panthers - Wolfdogs Nagoya 1-0 (25-21)

Match result for April 4, 2021
Final: Suntory Sunbirds - Panasonic Panthers 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-20)

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