Last year, “Abstention” due to tournament regulations even though all PCR tests were negative, until the women’s volleyball team of Okayama’s Shuzi High School returned to the throne. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Last year, “Abstention” due to tournament regulations even though all PCR tests were negative, until the women’s volleyball team of Okayama’s Shuzi High School returned to the throne.

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The women’s volleyball team from Okayama’s Shijitsu High School won the championship for the fifth time in two years. The team overcame the disappointment of having to abandon the tournament last year to return to the top.

This year marked the 76th All-Japan Volleyball High School Championships (Spring High School Volleyball), and the women’s tournament ended with Okayama Prefecture’s powerhouse Shizumi winning the championship for the fifth time in two years. Last year, a third consecutive championship was at stake, but a year ago at this time, a new type of coronavirus was raging. The tournament’s guideline was to “abstain” if even one person tested positive for the virus, and Shunji was forced to “abstain” on the day of the match because of the positive results. Miki Nishihata, 46, who has coached the volleyball team since 2003, said, “If it were possible, I would have liked to go back and play in last year’s tournament. Why was this?

In the medical community, many doctors give priority to PCR test results. ……

It was a magnificent victory that will remain in the history of the Spring High School Volleyball Tournament. Shijitsu High School, which came out on top in the women’s competition, did not lose a single set in all six matches in this year’s tournament, a perfect victory. Despite such a joyous moment, coach Nishihata did not strike a gaudy gut-pose.

He said, “The passion of a person has tremendous power,” he said. (I think it was more than the team’s ability…” He smiled, but his eyes were deep.

He smiled, but he was not smiling behind his eyes. He made the number “0” with his index finger and thumb and continued.

We haven’t had any cases of corona infection last year or this year.

Last January, when the Spring High School Volleyball Tournament was held, the new coronavirus was widespread. Under the tournament guidelines, two days prior to the match, all players, coaches, and other related personnel were required to undergo antigen testing. Shuzumi, as per the rule, conducted a test within the team two days prior to the tournament, and all members tested negative. The “incident” occurred on the day of the tournament (January 5, 2011) at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. The team was fair and honest in reporting the negative results, but the tournament secretariat informed us that there were some athletes whose negative test results were unclear.

As a result, “There was a positive result. Shugi will have to abstain,” the school was ruthlessly notified. The school conducted a hasty PCR test in Tokyo, and the results were all “negative. However, the abstention from the tournament was not reversed, and the entire volleyball team was unable to take a single step inside the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, the venue of the match, even though they were right in front of it. Shunyi could not regret the result as their third consecutive championship was at stake in last year’s tournament.

This time last year, the “8th wave of corona” was raging. It is estimated that 31 million people in Japan were infected, which, by simple calculation, means that one out of every four people in the nation experienced infection. At the time, the importance of testing was constantly emphasized. If a person developed a fever and symptoms of corona were suspected, it was recommended that he or she first undergo testing. An internist practicing in Tokyo revealed, “The main tests include an antigen test and an immunoassay.

It is not uncommon for the results of both tests to differ. However, if the results were different, many doctors would give priority to the PCR test, if I may say so from a doctor’s point of view. This is because the antigen test has the advantage of providing immediate results, but the PCR test is a more accurate test that can detect a smaller amount of virus than the antigen test.

After Shugi was declared “positive,” they took the PCR test, which is more accurate than the antigen test, on their own, and even though everyone tested “negative,” the “abstention” result was not reversed. Shunichi Kawai, president of the Japan Volleyball Association, commented, “It is unfortunate, but it cannot be helped because of the rule (that if even one person tests positive, the team abstains).

In high school baseball, even if a player tests positive, the registered players could be changed two hours before the start of the game. That is not all. If a player cleared the national recommended curfew period, he or she could immediately re-register for the tournament.

Unlike other high school sports, the Spring High School Volleyball Tournament did not have a remedy in the event of a positive result at the national tournament, which made the “tragedy” even worse. After last year’s tournament, when the abstention was not overturned, Shijitsu’s coach Nishihata reported to the school that he wanted to take some time off.

I was in no condition to coach volleyball,” he said.

Nevertheless, he returned to the school because of the coaching system of the Shusei volleyball team. A volleyball reporter revealed, “Shijitsu is a strong school.

Although Shijitsu is a strong school, it does not recruit special students from all over the country to strengthen the team. Successive coaches have served as the team’s dormitory director for generations, cooking meals for the players and taking care of their personal needs. The team grows stronger while living together. It is a school with a style of club activities that is rare these days.

Manager Nishihata (right) quietly expresses his joy, having offered to “take a rest” for a while immediately after being forced to abandon the team due to antigen testing last year, when a third consecutive championship was on the line.

After returning to the team, Nishihata thoroughly redid the defensive practice. Even high school volleyball coaches nowadays use the popular tactic of emphasizing data volleyball with a tablet in hand, but Coach Nishihata spent most of the entire practice session on receiving practice.

I can’t coach like that,” Nishihata said. First of all, it’s defense; if you pick up the first ball, you can get by. From the players’ point of view, I think it was boring and painful.

Nowadays, there are very few high school coaches who follow this practice method, in which three players continue to receive the ball. However, thinking about the older players who were forced to abandon the previous tournament made the suffering bearable.

Ace Koyumi Fukumura (sophomore), who scored 14 points in the final and was the tournament MVP, was a member of the team that had to abandon the tournament last year.

She said, “All I felt was sorry for the seniors in their third year. I wanted to run away every day. But the seniors told me, ‘You will be rewarded if you show results. That was all I wanted.”

At this year’s Spring High School Volleyball Tournament, the teams were allowed to be spectators from the first round, and cheering and shouting were banned. The risk of infection was considerable, but during the tour from Okayama, their hometown, to participate in the Spring High School Volleyball Tournament, and even after the tournament began, “We didn’t take a single step outside the dormitory, so no one really even took a walk” (Director Nishihata ).

After the victory, all the members of the Shijitsu volleyball team and coach Nishihata, who had expressed great joy after their persistent effort, took one step out of the tournament hall and immediately put on their masks with great care.

We received a lot of support after what happened last year,” said coach Nishihata. It wasn’t ‘I want to be the best in Japan,’ but ‘I won’t give up, I want to win. That was all I wanted. By winning the championship, I hope we were able to repay everyone’s kindness in some small way. (Director Nishihata)

As a reward for their victory, the team went to a hamburger store chosen by Director Nishihata. He dared to choose a restaurant that would be packed with team members.

He said, “It was also a restaurant with a budget I could afford (laughs). I’m sure the players would have enjoyed it.

I wonder what the players were thinking when they ate the burgers.

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