FIVB VNL 2019 preview – Bulgaria out to prove it is worthy

Bulgaria’s women’s national team is the rookie for FIVB VNL 2019. The squad joins the tournament for the first time after qualifying through the FIVB Challenger Cup, where it pipped Colombia to the qualification slot.

It’s an exciting time for an up-and-coming team eager to showcase its potential on the global volleyball stage. Despite being a newcomer to the tournament, a 12th place at the 2018 World Championships suggests it can be a force to be reckoned with and should continue to improve with more experience.

FIVB VNL 2018 record & stats

Win/loss: N/A
Points: N/A
Sets win/loss/ratio: N/A
Points win/loss/ratio: N/A
Final position: 1st (FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup)

What’s new for Bulgaria in FIVB VNL 2019?

An important development for Bulgaria’s women’s team in the last year has been the arrival of a new coach. Ivan Petkov took over from Ivan Seferinov early in 2018 and has led the squad on an upward trajectory since. He guided Bulgaria to its first title in the 2018 European Volleyball League, which allowed it to compete in the inaugural Challenger Cup, where it won gold and consequently qualified for FIVB VNL 2019.

Petkov intended to steer Bulgaria to within the top eight of the 2018 World Championship but fell short as the team wound up 12th. His ultimate remit, however, is to lead Bulgaria to qualification for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

It will be interesting to see how far Petkov, who has had success with Bulgaria’s junior women’s team and at the club level, can take this eager squad.

Bulgaria world ranking: 16 (October 2018)

Bulgaria provisional FIVB VNL 2019 roster

Head coach: Ivan Petkov

Setters: Lora Kitipova, Petya Barakova, Gergana Georgieva, Mirela Shahpazova, Polina Neykova, Galina Karabasheva

Liberos: Kristiana Petrova, Zhana Todorova, Silva Andreeva

Middle Blockers: Nasya Dimitrova, Maria Dancheva, Mira Todorova, Radostina Marinova, Mariya Krivoshiyska, Denitsa Dimitrova, Dima Usheva, Maria Yordanova, Aneliya Dzhondrova

Wing Spikers (Outside & Opposite Hitters): Elitsa Vasileva, Gergana Dimitrova, Simona Dimitrova, Miroslava Paskova, Monika Krasteva, Mariya Karakasheva, Aleksandra Milanova, Elena Becheva, Silvana Chausheva, Vangeliya Rachkovska, Veselina Grigorova

Average age: 22.4 (15th oldest)

Average height: 183.6cm (11th tallest)

Bulgaria players to watch in FIVB VNL 2019: Gergana Dimitrova, Nasya Dimitrova

Bulgaria’s most promising stars are the Dimitrova sisters, Gergana and Nasya. Gergana, who plays outside hitter, is 23 years old and has a lot of upside. She’s one of the team’s go-to players and plays for Volero Le Cannet in the French League, along with national team-mate Mira Todorova. Nasya, a middle blocker, is 26 and is likewise one of the team’s staples.

Bulgaria also has some great wing spikers in Silvana Chausheva (23), and Mariya Karakasheva (30), who were the second and third Best Spikers respectively during the Challenger Cup.

Gergana & Nasya Dimitrova lead Bulgaria against Greece

How to watch Bulgaria 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 are able to say that fans in Bulgaria were able to watch the 2018 tournament on Mtel and

Bulgaria FIVB VNL 2019 match schedule

Week 1

May 21 at 17:30 – Bulgaria v Japan
May 22 at 17:30 – Bulgaria v Belgium
May 23 at 17:30 – USA v Bulgaria

Week 2

May 28 at 14:30 – Bulgaria v Poland
May 29 at 17:30 – Netherlands v Bulgaria
May 30 at 17:30 – Brazil v Bulgaria

Week 3

June 4 at 11:05 – Thailand v Bulgaria
June 5 at 08:05 – Bulgaria v Turkey
June 6 at 08:05 – Bulgaria v Dominican Republic

Week 4

June 11 at 18:00 – Italy v Bulgaria
June 12 at 15:00 – Bulgaria v Russia
June 13 at 15:00 – Korea v Bulgaria

Week 5

June 18 at 08:00 – Bulgaria v Serbia
June 19 at 11:30 – China v Bulgaria
June 20 at 08:00 – Germany v Bulgaria

Bulgaria games to watch out for in FIVB VNL 2019

As the new kid on the block, it should be fun to watch how Bulgaria will fare against world-class talent at FIVB VNL 2019. How much of a fight will it put up against defending champion USA? Or against world number one Serbia? Even if it is unable to swipe a set, it would be interesting to see how it responds to the challenges of facing these top-tiered teams.

In the 2018 FIVB World Championships Bulgaria took a set against Russia and defeated Thailand in a closely-fought match so it will be interesting to watch both rematches in the 2019 VNL.

The bottom line: Bulgaria out to prove it is worthy

As tournament freshman, Bulgaria has a blank canvas to work with to show everyone what it is all about. At present, it is a solid group with height, reach, talent and physicality but still does struggle with core skills at times – chief among them passing and reception. On a good day, when the passes are clicking, it can certainly cause problems for bigger teams with the help of that physicality. But consistency will be key.

Part of that struggle could perhaps be due to the lack of competitiveness in its local women’s league, where there are just eight teams. This makes Bulgaria’s participation in the FIVB VNL 2019 all the more crucial because it exposes the squad to world-class competitors. Even if it is resoundingly defeated, this could give the players the necessary experience to improve.

Bulgaria has already achieved a lot in just the last year alone and has the momentum to potentially shock a team in this tournament, but it would undoubtedly still also be a learning curve overall. Being ambitious and eager to show the world what it is capable of could only yield good things for Bulgaria down the line.

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

A good and realistic result would be to avoid relegation and stay in the FIVB VNL competition for next year. Given the quality of competition, it would require tremendous effort to win a set against the top teams, but it would also be foolish to discount a very enthusiastic team like Bulgaria.

To stay in the FIVB VNL for next year means a whole tournament of added experience to the Bulgarian women’s team’s calendar. That would put it in a good place to keep climbing up the ladder, with the goal of potentially competing for the top rung in the future.

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