Saitama, Japan, July 9, 2015 - Youth was the theme as the coaches of China, the Dominican Republic, Italy and Japan spoke to the media ahead of the second round of the 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix here on Friday evening.
Play in the three-day competition in the preliminary round in Group 1 will begin at Saitama City Memorial Gymnasium on Friday with China taking on the Dominican Republic in the first match and Italy facing Japan in the second.
China, currently ranked third in the world, enters the second round with a 3-0 record after a sweep last weekend at home in Ningbo. Coach Lang Ping is looking to get seasoning for her youthful squad.
"We are happy to be here. All the teams are strong," she said. "We have a young team. We want to give our young players a chance to gain experience here."
The Dominican Republic, ranked sixth in the world, will face a major challenge here as some of its key players are currently participating in the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada. They come in with a record of 0-3 after failing to notch a victory in Ningbo last weekend.
"It is our pleasure to be in Japan again," saod Dominican coach Cristian Cruz. "We have a young team. The average age of our squad is just 23.
"Some of our main players are entered in other competitions, so the players we have brought will have to compete with strong teams," Cruz noted. "We need their contribution to help win in this event."
Italy, fifth in the world rankings, has a 2-1 mark heading into Friday's meeting with Japan, after winning a pair of matches last weekend in Ankara. Coach Marco Bonitta sees the World Grand Prix as key in advance of other events this year.
"This competition will help prepare us for the European Championships and the Olympic qualifying later this year," Bonitta said. "Every year is different with new players. Before we had young athletes. Now we have a mix of youth and veteran players.
"Our match with Japan will be a tough one," Bonitta added. "It will be two young teams battling."
Japan, fourth in the ranking, is 2-1 going into Friday's match after scoring a pair of wins last weekend in Bangkok. Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe knows it won't be easy for his team despite playing at home.
"We are in a tough group in the second round," said Manabe, who led Japan to a second-place finish in the World Grand Prix in 2014. "We have some young players, so this will be a good chance for them to gain valuable experience."
China will play Italy in the first match on Saturday, with the Dominican Republic meeting Japan in the second. The event will conclude on Sunday with Italy facing the Dominican Republic in the opener, while China vies with Japan in the finale.