Player of the Week: Yuji Nishida
Growing up in Inabe
Nishida’s hometown town of Inabe, Mie Prefecture is on the western outskirts of Nagoya and has a population of around 45,000. As a junior high school student, his school team participated in the Japanese Prefectural Junior High School tournament as the representative for Mie Prefecture. With the proximity to Nagoya, it was expected that Nishida would join Seijo High School, a leading high school volleyball programme in Japan. His national team teammate Yuki Ishikawa also attended Seijo. Nishida, however, wanted to remain local and not have to commute to Nagoya every day for school. Instead, he enrolled at Kaisei High School in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture.
After his professional debut, Nishida was called to the Ryujin Nippon by Head Coach Yuichi Nakagaichi and made his men’s national team debut on May 25, 2018 against Australia in a 3-1 win for Japan. Nishida had 15 points, 14 spikes and an ace in the victory. Nishida played in 12 of Japan’s 15 matches in the 2018 VNL and led the Japanese team in scoring in eight of those 12 matches. With his strong performance in the VNL, Nakagaichi made sure he was on the roster for the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship in Italy in September 2018. Nishida did not see much court time until the third match of first round pool play, against Slovenia, in which he had a difficult night taking 17 attacks to get just six points. From that match, however, Nishida became Japan’s leading scorer in their final two matches. In a 3-1 loss to Belgium, Nishida had 20 points, 13 spikes, a block and six aces. In their final first round pool play tie with Argentina, which Japan had to win in less than five sets to advance to the second round, Nishida scored 30 points, 27 spikes, a block and two aces, to help Japan win the match 3-2, but his team were eliminated from the tournament.
Nishida upped his game in the V.League this season with JTEKT, who finished the regular season with their best ever record (2nd place at 23-4) and getting the Stings to their first final. In a difficult five-set final against the Panasonic Panthers, Nishida led his team in scoring with 36 points, taking them to their first title and earning the V.League's MVP in the process. Considering one of his opponents in the final was the Polish superstar Michal Kubiak, Nishida is showing that he may have what it takes to take the Japanese men’s national team up the FIVB World Rankings.
Follow Yuji Nishida on Instagram.
Nishida and Kaziyski lead JTEKT to first Japanese Men’s League title
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