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キャッチ! The LONDON(第2、4月曜) : 第3回 切符獲得へカギ握る“エース”と“忍者” 〜バレーボール世界最終予選〜
投稿日時: 2012-05-14 21:09:50

 19日、バレーボール女子世界最終予選が東京体育館で開幕する。今夏のロンドン五輪出場への最後のチャンスであり、熾烈な戦いが繰り広げられることは間違いない。全日本女子がアテネ、北京に続いて3大会連続出場を決めるには、3位以内、あるいは4位以下においてアジアトップの成績を収めることが条件となる。果たして眞鍋政義監督率いる“火の鳥NIPPON”はロンドンへの切符を掴むことができるのか。

 命運握る木村のサーブレシーブ

 高さ、パワーで圧倒的強さをもつ海外チームに対して、重要視される日本の戦略のポイントは、「ディフェンス力」と「スピード」であることは、他の競技でもよく耳にするであろう。バレーボールにおいても同様である。では、この2つの武器を最大限いかすには、何が必要となるのか。それは「サーブ」と「サーブレシーブ」だ。いかに相手に取りにくいサーブをし、相手に気持ちよくスパイクをさせないか。そして、いかにサーブレシーブのミスを減らし、司令塔である竹下佳江に「Aパス」と言われる、トスのしやすいボールを上げることができるか。日本のロンドンへの切符、そしてロンドンでのメダル獲得は、それらの出来にかかっていると言っても過言ではない。

 サーブにおいては、ほぼ全員が空気抵抗を最も受け、軌道が大きく変化するジャンプフローターサーブを行なっている。当時世界ランキング1位だったブラジルにストレート勝ちした昨年のワールドカップを見ても、今や全日本には欠かせない武器となっている。一方、サーブレシーブは最重要課題と言っていいだろう。特にキーマンとなるのが、今やエースとして全日本女子を牽引する木村沙織である。「エース」といえば、スパイク決定率の数字が注目される。ディフェンスよりも、オフェンスでのプレーに目がいきがちがだが、そのオフェンス力をいかすも殺すも、すべては「サーブレシーブ」にかかっていると言っても過言ではない。

 日本とすれば、エースの木村がオフェンスの中心である。一方、相手にすれば、その核となる木村を警戒するのは当然だろう。木村をいかに攻撃に参加させず、日本のオフェンス力を弱めるかが重要なポイントだ。そこで、木村にサーブレシーブをさせ、攻撃参加を封じようとしてくる。サーブレシーブが崩れれば、ロスが生まれ、速いトスを上げることができないばかりか、攻撃のパターンも限られてしまう。つまり、お家芸ともいえる「コンビバレー」ができず、日本のオフェンス力はたちまちしぼんでしまわざるを得ない。だからこそ、最もサーブで狙われる木村のサーブレシーブの出来が勝敗のカギを握っているのだ。

 世界を驚かす山口の存在

 現在の全日本の攻撃は実に多彩だ。エースの木村をはじめ、木村に負けないポイントゲッターに成長した江畑幸子、昨年のワールドカップで戦列デビューした21歳コンビの新鍋理沙と岩坂名奈、そして身長175センチながら最高到達点305センチのジャンプ力を誇り、チーム一のバックアタックが魅力の迫田さおり……と得点能力の高いアタッカーたちがズラリと並んでいる。

 しかし、そんな中、隠れたキーマンとしてあげたいのが山口舞だ。タレント揃いの全日本女子だけに、彼女の名前がメディアで取り上げられることは決して多くはない。そのため、彼女が海外のチームからも恐れられているプレーヤーであるということはあまり知られていないだろう。山口は本来はミドルブロッカー(MB)であり、所属する岡山シーガールズではMBのレギュラーとして活躍している。

 しかし、全日本で山口に与えられているポジションはウイングスパイカー(WS)だ。しかし、その動きは独特である。他の選手に隠れるように移動し、相手がおとりの選手に対してブロックしているところへ、スッと脇から現れ、ほぼノーマークでスパイクを決めてしまうのである。類を見ない山口の独特の動きから、眞鍋監督いわく海外からは「忍者」と呼ばれているという。

 そして、指揮官やチームからの信頼も厚い。
「実は山口は日本にとって隠れたキーマンなんですよ。あんな動きをする選手は他にはいませんからね。海外の監督も皆、一様に驚いていましたよ。彼女は波が少ない選手で、安定感がある。私も安心して見ていられます。どんなトスでも決めてくれますから、セッターの竹下からの信頼も厚いんです」

 もちろん、その山口に対しても海外のチームは研究してくるだろう。データバレーが主流の現代バレーでは、常に新しいことが求められる。誰よりもデータを駆使している眞鍋監督なら、当然、何らかの対策を立ててくるはずだ。つまり、山口のプレーに進化が見られるのではないか。果たして、どんなプレーで相手を驚かせるのか。エースを支える“忍者”の存在も見逃せない。

(文・斎藤寿子)


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