It’s the halfway point of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League 2019 preliminaries and Turkey is showing why they are the league leaders so far. They demolished Bulgaria in three sets and allowed an average of just 15.33 points per set. The Turkish block party was also re-established via a 9-4 advantage. Service aces also went to their favor, 9-3.
But attack points are the most glaring stat in this match as the Turks owned a 40-26 margin. Ebrar Karakurt finally had another impressive game by tallying 17 points, 13 off spikes. She got support from Hande Baladin and Meliha Ismailoglu who had 12 apiece. Kubra Caliskan added ten for Giovanni Guidetti’s crew.
Turkey remains on top of the standings at 7-1. Italy and the United States have the same win-loss record but they have the higher set ratio. They have only dropped five sets in eight games. Meanwhile, the Italians and the Americans have won 23 and lost eight each.
While Turkey is enjoying their spot on top, Bulgaria is still struggling to get their first win. This is not the campaign that last year’s Challenger Cup champions envisioned. With the Final Six being a distant possibility, the Bulgarians must start to string victories to avoid relegation.
Dominican Republic is at it again
Three hours after the Turkey-Bulgaria match, the Dominican Republic and Thailand played what could be regarded as a VNL classic. There were three extended sets in the five-set match won by the visitors. The Dominicans took the first set, 31-29, in front of a mainly partisan crowd. They also claimed the third frame, 30-28. Marcos Kwiek’s squad seal the victory in the tiebreaker, 16-14.
It was a bitter loss for the Thais who are looking to sweep this pool at their home floor. However, the Dominicans survived despite committing 30 unforced errors. Thailand had the edge in service aces but the DR players negated that in kill blocks. Attack points were pretty dead even.
Thailand couldn’t find an answer to Brayelin Martinez who finished with 36 points. Bethania De La Cruz added 17. Chatchu-on Moksri and Pleumjit Thinkaow scored 23 and 20 points, respectively, for the home team. Ajcharaporn Kongyot followed up her 30-point performance with 19 markers. Onuma Sittirak contributed 15 points.
Save for the Thailand-Dominican Republic game, the other matches finished in three or four sets. Paola Egonu showed why she was the Best Opposite Spiker in last year’s World Championships by dominating the Japanese net defense. The Italian Eagle made 17 attack points in just 32 attempts. Italy dominated this category, 48-29.
She was also a vital cog in Italy’s dominating net defense. At game’s end, the Italians scored 16 off blocks while Japan tallied only three. Egonu had three blocks to her credit while Anna Danesi got five. Aces also went Italy’s way, 4-1. They performed like this despite committing 26 errors. Meanwhile, it was a struggle for Kumi Nakada’s wards as Yuki Ishii is the only player in double figures with 12.
Brazil also defeated South Korea in three sets. The Koreans did not register a single block or ace while connecting on just 32 attack points. In effect, the Brazilians were never challenged as their opponents scored 17, 16, and 11 points, respectively. Gabriela Guimaraes led Brazil with 14 points while Kang Sohwi led Korea with ten. Brazil improves to 5-3 while South Korea drop to 1-7.
Finally, China made sure that the Asian representatives won’t experience a victory black out by defeating the Netherlands. The Chinese committed just eight errors in the entire match while the Dutch had 19. Lang Ping’s players also brought the heat through service aces, 7-2. Zhu Ting paced the Chinese with 18 points while Yuan Xinyue added 13. This is China’s sixth straight win in VNL 2019 after dropping their first two matches.
Ana Bjelica waxed hot with 27 points to lead the Serbians to a four-set victory over reeling Russia. Katarina Lazovic supported with 14 points and Maja Aleksic added 13. It was no contest in the blocking and service departments. Zoran Terzic’s troops finished with a 17-9 edge in blocks and 13-5 lead in aces. They did this despite missing some of their top players in Tijana Boskovic and Brankica Mihajlovic.
On the other hand, Poland stays in striking distance of the top spot after edging Belgium in four sets. This time, Malwina Smarzek did not lead the Poles in scoring even though she still had 21 points. The honor goes to Magdalena Stysiak who finished with 24, four of which are service aces. Britt Herbots, Kaja Grobelna, and Celine Van Gestel all had 14 points each for the Belgians. Poland goes up to 6-2 while Belgium is at the middle of the pack at 4-4.