Story and Photos by Joel Belizario (ISN)
January 8, 2013, Edmonton, AB (ISN) – The visiting team from NIFS, Kanoya, Japan dropped just one set en route to winning the University of Alberta Pandas 2013 New Year’s Classic Tournament at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
The New Year’s Classic tournament is an annual event, hosted by the Alberta Pandas. This year’s featured teams include the following Universities; Calgary, Saskatchewan, Regina, and Mount Royal. Founded in 1981, the National Institute of Fitness and Sports is the only national physical education university in the country; located in Kanoya, Kagoshima, Japan.
Kanoya player Riko Yamamoto passes during the 2013 New Year’s Classic at the Saville Community Sports Centre – Photo by Joel Belizario (Island Sports News)
Anxiety was high and the anticipation was mounting as it proved to be a great final match between the host Pandas (4-1) and the Kanoya team of Japan (5-0), interesting to note that both teams were sitting at 4-0 earlier on in the day.
Kanoya player Sakura Miyazaki spikes the ball past the Pandas defense during the 2013 New Year’s Classic at the Saville Community Sports Centre – Photo by Joel Belizario (Island Sports News)
The visiting team wasted no time and leaped to an early lead, flustering the defending Canada West Champion Pandas. With a commanding performance in the first set, NIFS came out on top 25-13. The Alberta Pandas tried to close the gap but ultimately ran out of time and found themselves bowing out in 4 sets (25-13, 25-21, 20-25, 25-20).
Kanoya player Tae Furuya celebrates with her teammates after scoring during the 2013 New Year’s Classic at the Saville Community Sports Centre – Photo by Joel Belizario (Island Sports News).
The Mount Royal University Cougars (2-3) claimed 3rd place in the tournament with a win over the University of Calgary Dinos (2-3) in 4 sets. The University of Regina Cougars (1-4) won their game against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies (1-4) by defeating their provincial counterparts in straight sets.
U of A Panda Dione Lang spikes the ball past a pair of U of C Dinos during the 2013 New Year’s Classic at the Saville Community Sports Centre – Photo by Joel Belizario (Island Sports News)
The tournament was a valuable opportunity for the Canadian teams to experience international competition. The host Pandas have continued to build their relationship with teams from Japan, and it has proved to be an essential part of their program development.
Earlier in 2012, head coach Laurie Eisler along with 16 of their players ventured to Japan. The tour included stays at two of the Universities in Tokyo which also included training time with a professional women’s volleyball team.