Rivalry of Japan’s Volleyball Aces Koga and Ishikawa Sparks “The Paris Joy” | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Rivalry of Japan’s Volleyball Aces Koga and Ishikawa Sparks “The Paris Joy”

Celebrating the decision to participate in the Olympics! A team full of talents will make it to the podium for the first time in three tournaments since the London Olympics.

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Sarina Koga’s husband, Yuji Nishida (24), will compete in the Paris Olympics as part of the men’s team. Koga aims for a medal alongside her husband, while Ishikawa aims for one with her sibling.

The Japanese women’s volleyball team has taken the first step towards the podium since London. During the ‘Nations League 2024’ (May 14 to June 23), where the top 16 countries compete, they secured their spot for the Paris Olympics.


“The announcement of their qualification for the Paris Olympics came on June 14. This marks the women’s team’s sixth consecutive Olympic appearance since Athens 2004. Captain Sarina Koga (28) is undoubtedly a key player, often regarded as the rightful successor to Saori Kimura (37) and the absolute ace of the Japanese team.” (shared a journalist covering the event)

As the face of women’s volleyball, Sarina Koga has gained significant media exposure through commercials like “Hotto Motto.”Despite concerns about her gentle demeanor affecting her captaincy, sports writer Yūko Tanaka, who has interviewed Koga extensively, dismisses these worries.


“You can’t see it on screen, but her court instructions are very precise. Traditionally, women’s volleyball was seen as winning through spirit and perseverance, but Koga is the opposite. She quickly notices gaps between opponents’ attacks and our blocks, and during games, she calmly leads the team by making specific requests to the setter like ‘I want a higher toss for this attack’. The current Japan team wouldn’t function without Koga.” 

Ishikawa experienced the humiliation of being substituted during the Canada match, but in the Serbia game, she scored the most points for the team with 17. Her ability to quickly adapt is also impressive.

Koga, who plays in the domestic league, has been honing her skills in the top-tier Italian league since last season in preparation for the Paris Olympics, alongside the other ace, Mayu Ishikawa (24).


“Ishikawa has Yuki Ishikawa (28), the ace of the men’s national team, as her older brother, and her volleyball sense is outstanding. Standing at 174 cm, she is petite compared to other volleyball players, but she secured a starting position in almost every game in Italy. This tournament seems to have given her the confidence and ease of ‘being able to compete globally’. Her hair has also changed from short black to bright long hair. She enjoys her self play diligently.” (Mr. Tanaka)


The absolute queen leading Japan’s women’s volleyball and the spirited competitor who honed her skills at the world’s highest level. Naturally, the media seeks to draw out heartwarming episodes between these two. 


“In reality, these two have a fierce rivalry. Besides handling interviews, they rarely converse off-court. After Ishikawa was substituted during the Canada match, Koga boldly stated in a press conference, ‘I haven’t really been watching her.’ Their relationship is akin to Sakuragi Hanamichi and Rukawa Kaede from the manga ‘SLAM DUNK.’ Despite this, they show outstanding teamwork during games, so perhaps they don’t need to force a close relationship.” (Same reporter as before)


With the double aces pushing each other forward, Japan’s national team is bound to keep getting stronger.

Despite their rivalry, both players are key aces supporting the national team. During practice, they never miss a chance to communicate to ensure their coordination is spot on.

From the July 5-12, 2024 issue of FRIDAY


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