Tough luck for Italy. They were comfortably in front by winning the first two sets. Miryam Sylla and Paola Egonu combined for 14 points in the opening frame and 15 in set two. However, the momentum was short-lived as China turned the tide.
Zhu Ting and Li Yingying’s 13 markers helped the Chinese grab set three, 25-23. Then, it was Yuan Xinyue who helped China’s team captain to force a tiebreaker. Despite losing momentum, the Italians won’t go down without a fight. Egonu paced her squad with five points in the deciding set. However, it was her attack error that eventually sealed the victory for the home team.
Italy challenged whether the ball glanced the fingers of a Chinese blocker. But the technical crew checked whether the ball went in or out. Official review says it was out and controversy ensued because it was not the challenge Italy wanted. But a succeeding review dissolved the issue. There was no check ball as Egonu clearly made an attack error. China won, 15-13.
The narrow defeat spoiled Egonu’s 40-point effort and handed Italy its second loss in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League 2019. Sylla finished with 16 points but only played the first three sets while Cristina Chirichella added 11. Italy’s 29 unforced errors could have contributed to their demise.
Meanwhile, the Chinese clinched its seventh straight win after dropping its first two matches. Zhu paced the reigning Olympic and Asian champions with 26 points while Yuan supported with 20. Li finished with 14 points. China had a 12-8 edge in kill blocks.
Italy will head home to face cellar-dwellers Bulgaria, Russia, and South Korea. On the other hand, China will head to their mainland to battle with powerhouse squads Poland, Turkey, and the United States.
Poland survives Russia’s challenge
The Poles maintained their spot in the top six by edging Russia in five sets. Vadim Pankov’s crew won extended sets two and three to move a set away from an upset. But Poland established its dominance in sets four and five. Magdalena Stysiak led her squad to force a decider while Malwina Smarzek and Agata Witkowska carried Poland in the fifth frame.
Smarzek finished with 33 points while Stysiak ended with 17. Meanwhile, it’s another disappointing defeat for Russia as they drop to 1-8 after three weeks of VNL 2019. Ksenia Parubets led her crew with 23 points and Margarita Kurilo made 13. Poland owned a 17-6 margin in blocks with Witkowska matching Russia’s total herself.
Bulgaria remains winless
Gergana Dimitrova and Miroslava Paskova had 20 points apiece. It was still not enough to seal Bulgaria’s first victory in the Volleyball Nations League 2019. Brayelin Martinez scored 26 while Jineiry Martinez added 15 to lead the Dominican Republic to a four-set victory over the Bulgarians.
Last year’s Challenger Cup winners only have six games left to collect as many victories. Otherwise, they are in danger to be relegated in the Challenger again. Meanwhile, the Dominicans remain at the middle of the pack with a 5-4 record. They are just one win behind current sixth placer Brazil.
Straight-set victories for Japan, Germany, Belgium, and Turkey
Japan defeated the Netherlands to stay in the hunt for the Final Six. They negated the Dutch’s 8-3 edge in blocks with an 8-3 advantage in service aces. The Netherlands only converted 28 attack points. Yuki Ishii led the Japanese with 15 points while Risa Shinnabe supported with 13. Annick Meijers is the only Dutch player in double figures with 11 points.
Germany also won in three over South Korea. Louisa Lippman had 18 points while Hanna Orthmann and Lisa Grunding finished with 11 apiece. The Germans established an 11-1 advantage in kill blocks. Kim Yeonkoung paced the struggling Koreans with 11 points.
Belgium pulled off an upset by shutting down Serbia. Britt Herbots scored 24 in just three sets while Celine Van Gestel added 13. Ana Bjelica led the Serbians with 11.
Finally, Turkey remained on top of the Volleyball Nations League 2019 by dominating Thailand. The Thais cannot slow down their opponents as the Turks converted 40 attack points. Turkey also had control of the blocks, 11-5, and aces, 6-2. Ebrar Karakurt led all scorers with 20 points. Pleumjit Thinkaow led the Thais with seven points.