2019 FIVB VNL preview – can Belgium crack the top 12?

Belgium’s women’s national team did enough at last year’s competition to continue playing in the FIVB VNL 2019. Finishing in 13th place with just four wins, the Belgians are young but hungry to prove themselves, even if that means simply stealing a set from a team like defending champion USA within their pool.

They’re understandably looking to climb up a notch or two this year, or at least stay on and avoid relegation. Is Belgium ready for a spot in the top 12?

FIVB VNL 2018 record & stats

Win/loss: 4 / 11

Points: 12

Sets win/loss/ratio: 18 / 36/ 0.500

Points win/loss/ratio: 1115 / 1250 / 0/892

Final position: 13th

What’s new for Belgium in FIVB VNL 2019?

Belgium’s women’s team largely consists of a lot of young players so there hasn’t been any significant movement in the last year since we last saw them at FIVB VNL 2018. Head coach Gert Vande Broek, who has been at the helm since 2008, is back to ensure the team continues improving.

Belgium world ranking: 19 (October 2018)

Belgium provisional roster

Full 30 man provisional roster listed with subsequently cut players highlighted in red.

Head coach: Gert Vande Broek

Setters: Ilka Van De Vyver, Elise Van Sas, Jutta Van De Vyver, Oriane Moulin, Aziliz Divoux, Charlotte Krenicky, Lara Nagels

Liberos: Britt Rampelberg, Amber De Tant, Britt Ruysschaert

Middle Blockers: Bieke Kindt, Nathalie Lemmens, Laura Heyrman, Freya Aelbrecht, Dominika Sobolska, Iris Vandewiele, Marlies Janssens, Silke Van Avermaet

Wing Spikers (Outside & Opposite Hitters): Britt Herbots, Laure Flement, Celine Van Gestel, Kaja Grobelna, Dominika Strumilo, Justine D’Hondt, Karolina Goliat, Jodie Guilliams, Manon Stragier, Anna Valkenborg, Felice Vanassche, Lotte Vandendriessche

Average age: 22.4 (16th oldest)

Average height: 183.1cm (12th tallest)

Belgium players to watch in FIVB VNL 2019: Britt Herbots, Kaja Grobelna

Given that Belgium is a young team, there’s a lot of potential for its players to step up and take charge. At last year’s FIVB VNL, outside spiker Britt Herbots, 19, and opposite spiker Kaja Grobelna, 24, were the go-to players for Belgium.

The pair led the Belgians in all of their victories last year. They often combined for double-digit outputs in every match and regularly cracked 20-plus points each. They also got sufficient help from wing spiker Celine Van Gestel, 21, and middle blocker Marlies Janssens, also 21.

The development of these players should be crucial to how far Belgium can go internationally.

Can talented but young Britt Herbots inspire Belgium? Source: FIVB.com

Belgium FIVB VNL 2019 match schedule

All times shown in GMT.

Week 1

May 21 at 14:00 – Belgium v USA

May 22 at 17:30 – Bulgaria v Belgium

May 23 at 14:00 – Belgium v Japan

Week 2

May 28 at 07:30 – Belgium v Korea

May 29 at 11:30 – China v Belgium

May 30 at 08:30 – Belgium v Thailand

Week 3

June 4 at 18:15 – Belgium v Russia

June 5 at 18:15 – Belgium v Poland

June 6 at 18:15 – Belgium v Serbia

Week 4

June 11 at 15:30 – Belgium v Netherlands

June 12 at 18:30 – Germany v Belgium

June 13 at 15:30 – Belgium v Dominican Republic

Week 5

June 18 at 16:00 – Turkey v Belgium

June 19 at 13:00 – Belgium v Brazil

June 20 at 13:00 – Belgium v Italy

Belgium games to watch out for in FIVB VNL 2019

Last year, Belgium managed to overcome fellow challenger teams Dominican Republic and Argentina. But they also pulled off a couple of upsets against Asian teams South Korea and Thailand. Argentina has been relegated in lieu of Bulgaria, which qualified through the inaugural Challenger Cup last year, but Dominican Republic is back so it should be an interesting rematch for those two squads.

It would be quite exciting as well to see how Belgium matches up to South Korea and Thailand once more, and whether or not they can swipe a match against fellow challenger Poland, which defeated Belgium three sets to one last year.

Definitely endeavor to watch Belgium take on the Netherlands again. The Dutch, ranked seventh in the world, barely scraped by with the win in a thrilling five-setter. Belgium went up 2-1 and the Netherlands needed 31 points to win the fourth set and force a decider. The geographic neighbors have plenty of similarities, albeit the Dutch have found more success, and it seems like a rivalry is brewing.

The bottom line: can Belgium crack the top 12?

Belgium hasn’t had a history of winning when it comes to women’s volleyball. The team’s best performances and results in international play came in 2013, during the European Championship (bronze) and European League (silver).

Before that the squad’s best finish at the World Championship was 11th place in 2014. They started participating in the World Championship in 1956 but have mostly failed to qualify in succeeding years. They also did not qualify for the 2018 World Championship in Japan.

But the team has shown flashes of brilliance at last year’s FIVB VNL when they stole sets from top teams like Russia, Brazil, and Germany.

The average age for this Belgian women’s team is 21 years old, with the oldest player only at 26, so there’s plenty of room for growth, especially as they gain more experience.

It’s worth pointing out that the overwhelming majority of the roster plays within Belgium’s local league, compared to many other top-tiered teams whose players participate in international leagues outside their home country. Belgium’s young players would stand to benefit from more international exposure, both on the club and national team levels.

Regardless, this team will be aiming to crack the top 12 and pull off upsets here and there. But it would take nothing short of their best performance to take down some of the better teams.

What is a realistic FIVB VNL projection for the Belgium women’s team?

This squad clearly still has a long way to go before they’re ready to take down world volleyball powerhouses, but another year of growth and experience at the VNL should bode well for them overall. A good result would certainly be to stay on for next year, but an even better one would be to finish within the top 12.

How to watch Belgium in FIVB VNL 2019

FIVB haven’t as yet released the broadcast details for the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League. Once it is updated we will update this section.

For now we can say that in 2018 fans in Belgium could watch their team in action via volleyballworld.tv.