Only three teams remain undefeated after the opening week of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League 2019. Italy has dropped just two sets while the United States and Turkey have lost one apiece. The Turks and the Americans also have the same points ratio at 1.258. As pools and venues rotate, here are the must watch games for VNL 2019 Week 2. All times reflected here are GMT
China vs Thailand – May 28, 1130H
The Chinese will enjoy home court advantage in this rematch of last year’s Asian Games gold medal contest. However, both teams are struggling so far with identical 1-2 records. The Thais will continue to rely on Ajcharaporn Kongyot and Malika Kanthong. They will also need Chatchu-on Moksri to bounce back from her slump.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that the Chinese will be playing their main weapons in Week 2. Zhu Ting and Liu Xiaotong could return to the fold while Li Yingying hopes to continue her hot streak from the Montreux Masters. They could bolster the Week 1 team that was paced by Fang Duan and Yanhan Liu.
USA vs Serbia – May 28, 1500H
This will be the battle of two volleyball powerhouses. The United States are the defending Volleyball Nations League champions and have remained undefeated through their balanced attack. All non-setters have scored 13 points or more in their three games with Sarah Wilhite and Andrea Drews leading the way with 31 and 30 points, respectively.
On the other hand, the reigning world champions suffered a shocking straight-sets loss to Turkey. However, they would have to pull off the victory in the absence of Tijana Boskovic and Brankica Mihajlovic. Mina Popovic, Bianka Busa, and Ana Bjelica will be their main options at offense.
Poland vs Brazil – May 29, 1430H
After winning the Montreux Masters, the Poles lost a bitter five-setter to Italy in their VNL 2019 opener. However, they have bounced back with consecutive wins against Germany and Thailand. Malwina Smarzek is on a tear during Week 1. She is the only player to have scored 30 points in a game and she’s looking to maintain her impressive run.
Meanwhile, the Brazilians should have had a perfect run if not for their loss to the Dominican Republic. They bounced back from that loss by defeating Russia in three sets. Poland should develop a game plan to slow down the spiking duo of Gabriela Guimaraes and Ana Guedes.
Italy vs USA – May 29, 1800H
This could be the battle of two undefeated teams depending on what will happen in their May 28 matches. The Italians have paced by Indre Sorokaite and Elena Pietrini. Lucia Bosetti and Sarah Luisa Fahr are doing damage in the block.
Unfortunately for the Americans, the Italians will parade their best team for this match-up. Paola Egonu will be back as well as Miryam Sylla and Cristina Chirichella. Monica de Gennaro will also take over from Beatrice Parrocchiale.
Mikaela Foecke’s absence could be huge for Karch Kiraly’s squad. The former University of Nebraska hitter went home to tie the knot on June 1 with Isaac Richter. Foecke has 22 points in three games and it would be interesting who Kiraly will tap to replace her. Perhaps Jordan Larson or reigning VNL MVP Michelle Bartsch-Hackley will fill in for Foecke.
Italy vs Serbia – May 30, 1800H
The Italians are looking for payback from the team that defeated them for the 2018 FIVB World Championship. They had the chance to take home the gold but the Serbians just had more weapons in the end game. Coach Davide Mazzanti might bring in some of his top players for this showdown.
Likewise, the Serbians would like to prove that their world title is no fluke. Unfortunately, they will play against the Italians without Boskovic and Mihajlovic. It remains to be seen how the absence of Maja Ognjenovic and Milena Rasic will affect their game as well.
Turkey vs Russia – May 30, 1430H
Barring any surprise against Germany and Japan, Turkey could own a 5-0 record coming into this match. Ebrar Karakurt has proven to be a thorn to the opposition. Their net defense is also solid with Kubra Caliskan, Hande Baladin, and Asli Kalac. But the Turks will be in for a fight against the gritty Russians.
Russia’s win over China is sandwiched by losses to the Dominicans and the Brazilians. But despite their disappointing performance so far, Margarita Kurilo has been a positive for Coach Vadim Pankov. As the league’s third best receiver, Kristina Kurnosova can give them more scoring opportunities from a good first ball.