The second edition of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League is under way and 14 teams locked horns in Day 1. While there were a fair share of dominating wins, there were also nail-biters and upsets. Here are the more intriguing stories around the match-ups in the VNL Day 1 opener.
The young guns came out
Age is nothing but a number for these players. They may not be as senior as their counterparts. But they proved that they belong in the big stage. Thailand’s Chatchu-on Moksri scored 12 points in their straight-sets victory over Germany. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Elena Pietrini of Italy made 17 against Poland. Her teammate Sarah Luisa Fahr added 13.
Turkey’s Ebrar Karakurt paced her squad with 19 points in their win against South Korea. These teenagers are already gaining confidence in the international stage. It would be exciting to see how will they fare in the next games or in future competitions.
Welcome to the 20-point club
Six players scored at least 20 points, four of which played against each other. Yuki Ishii contributed 20 points in Japan’s victory over Bulgaria. Meanwhile, reigning FIVB World Championship MVP Tijana Boskovic punished the Netherlands with 25 points in their three-set win.
Malwina Smarzek and Indre Sorokaite also reached this mark during their match. The Polish opposite spiker tallied 26 attack points and two kill blocks while the Italian hitter made 27 markers. Finally, Brayelin Elizabeth Martinez had 24 for the Domincan Republic and Margarita Kurilo ended with 22 points for Russia.
The five-block party
Five players had solid defensive games by posting five blocks or more in their respective matches. Japan’s Mai Okumura made five stuff blocks while Bulgaria’s Mira Todorova matched that number. Candida Estefany Arias Perez also had five for the Domincan Republic against Russia.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Asli Kalac connected on six blocks on 18 attempts versus the Koreans. But Italy’s Lucia Bosetti has to be the most impressive net defender for getting five stops in as many attempts against Poland. The Turks are also the most impressive blocking team with 17.
Teams struggled without their main stars
Netherlands’ Lonneke Sloetjes did not play in the rematch of the 2018 World Championship semifinal. As a result, no player for Jamie Morrison’s squad reached double figures as Nicole Oude Luttikhuis led the Dutch with nine. This allowed the Serbs to dominate in attack points, 45-26.
Meanwhile, Kim Yeonkoung did not suit up for South Korea, causing Heejin Kim as the only player in double-digit scoring with ten. Russia is also playing in the VNL without Nataliya Goncharova. But while they had three players with at least 15 points, the Domincan Republic edged them in four sets. The Russians led by only three points in the lone set that they took.
Match of the day
Poland and Italy proved that their Montreux Masters 2019 medals are no fluke. The bronze medalists of that six-day mini tournament took the first two sets, 25-15 and 25-22. However, the Poles responded by winning set three at 25-18 and set four at 25-21.
It all boiled down in the fifth set for the home team and the Italians. With the guest holding their second match point, libero Beatrice Parrocchiale made a fantastic dig of Smarzek’s spike. Indre Sorokaite converted an attack of her own to give the World Championship silver medalists the set and the match at 17-15.