Only one team from Okinawa will be able to advance to the Nationals, which makes HaruKana’s final match in the qualifiers a crucial one. Their opponent: Éclair.
With a place at the beach volleyball Nationals on the line, HaruKana take on Éclair in the final of the qualifier. The person who seems most nervous about the match isn’t any of the participants; instead it is Akari.
The first set begins, and Éclair call the coin toss so they get to serve first. Claire is the one who serves. Her serves are powerful, but they go out of bounds a lot. Kanata told Haruka that they should try to figure which is which, but just go for it if they can’t tell.
Éclair are able to score four points. Though they may have an early lead, HaruKana have no intention of giving up just yet. Kanata is able to catch Claire off-guard by not hesitating when it comes to responding to her serve.
Claire puts up a valiant effort in recovering from Kanata’s surprise, but she ends up spiking the ball out of bounds, giving HaruKana their first point of the set. The set continues, with HaruKana steadily catching up to Éclair.
Knowing that they were going to have a tough match ahead of them, HaruKana talked strategy before the match. Their plan is to target Claire with their serves, varying them between fast and slow. The idea is to get Claire flustered, and that’s what they manage to do to earn a couple of points. Claire figures this out, though.
Having had enough of feeling sorry for herself, Akari finally brightens up and starts cheering for both teams on the court. She even does her happy shequasar dance. The set continues on, with Éclair maintaining their lead, but HaruKana never far behind.
As the set continues, Kanata uses a jump serve which catches Claire by surprise. She just manages to return it, but Emily follows up and dumps the ball to take the score up to 18-20.
Emily being more proactive comes as a surprise. Before, she was just happy that she could play beach volleyball alongside Claire and just supported her. Emily believed that Claire would never lose – and then they played Kanata and Narumi.
For the first time, Emily realised that Claire was not perfect. It was that match with Kanata and Narumi that drove Emily to become stronger.
Éclair claims victory in the first set, courtesy of Emily. In the second set, Éclair take the lead again – but HaruKana manage to hang on, never leaving a gap of more than a few points.
Kanata surprises her opponents by directly returning the ball instead of setting it with Haruka. It seems like a receive error at first, but it becomes clear that Kanata returned it to where nobody was standing. HaruKana earn a point, and Kanata says that they won’t lose.
The episode ends here, with Claire very much liking the look in Kanata’s eyes.
This was a thrilling episode, with some of the best beach volleyball action we have seen so far. Emily and Claire may have the experience, but Haruka and Kanata’s training has paid off as well.
I was looking forward to seeing this match a lot, and it managed to go beyond my expectations. As things stand it seems that Éclair are the favourites to win, but it doesn’t feel impossible for HaruKana to claim victory.
Perhaps next time we will see a case of the students surpassing their teachers, or maybe experience will win out. It’s tough to call it, and that’s why this particular match of beach volleyball is compelling.
It was also nice to see Akari brighten up, after spending a fair chunk of the episode worrying over what will almost certainly be nothing. She even done her happy shequasar dance.
I also know a few people who will be happy to see Marissa again, even if it was just in a flashback.