The Montreux Masters 2019 serves as a prelude to the FIVB Volleyball Nations League. With just three days separating the schedule of the two leagues, here’s what we learned from the short tournament in relation to the longer VNL.
1) European teams dominate
The Asian teams were shut off during the final day of the Montreux. China lost to Turkey during the fifth place match in four sets. Then, Thailand lost to Italy in straight sets in the battle for third. Finally, Poland dominated Japan for gold. Could this be a foreshadowing of what will happen in the VNL? Probably, but not unlikely.
For one thing, teams are not yet playing to their full strengths. Zhu Ting and Liu Xiaotong did not play for China while Sarina Koga saw spot minutes for Japan. Thailand was missing Wilavan Apinyapong and Hattaya Bamrungsuk as well. Therefore, VNL rosters will be fortified and some of those who saw action in Montreux might be taken off the roster.
2) Blocking matters
Italy and Poland were able to use their height advantage especially on net defense. The Italians dominated the Thais in the block battle, 10-1. Sarah Luisa Fahr had four of those blocks while Indre Sorokaite and Ofelia Malinov combined for another four. Dominating the net limited Thailand to only 29 attack points in three sets.
Meanwhile, the Poles had 15 more stuff blocks than the Japanese during the gold medal match. That threw off Japan’s offense, forcing them to commit 23 unforced errors. Zuzanna Efimienko-Mlotkowska had seven blocks which more than doubles of Japan’s output. Going into the VNL, there could be matches that will be won in this department.
3) The young guns came out to play
With most of the top players skipping the Montreux, the up and coming stars came out to play. Turkey sensastion Hande Baladin had 18 points in the fifth place match while China’s Li Yingying and Hanyu Yang made 17 and 14, respectively. Meanwhile, Fahr and Elena Pietrini tallied 13 markers apiece in the bronze medal match.
Finally, Poland’s Malwina Smarzek punished Japan with 28 points. The young stars proved their worth in the Montreux Masters and their coaches are looking to have them more involved during the Volleyball Nations League. The future looks bright for their national teams if they play the same way.
4) Finding the right combination
Teams will scout their opponents before and during the VNL. Therefore, they must find ways to add variations to their offense be it through new plays or making use of different personnel. Sticking to one approach will make them predictable which can lead to defeat.
Coaches shuffling their rotation during the Montreux Masters is a way to find the right combination for the VNL. This will help them address certain situations or disadvantages that they might have against an opponent. Expect a chess match from the get-go as teams try to outplay and outwit each other.
5) Poland will be a tough team to beat
They have the two best spikers of the Montreux Masters 2019 in Smarzek and Natalia Medyrzyk. Team captain Agnieszka Kakowleska is also the tournament’s third best blocker. Marlena Plesnierowicz is also the best setter stats-wise with 9.79 excellent plays per set. Martyna Grajber is the third best digger and fourth best receiver.
They have talent in all zones which will make them a challenging opponent during the VNL. Likewise, the confidence they gained from Montreux will boost their chances to make the Final Six.