The Montreux Masters 2019 is now on its third day. Some teams are already staring at possible elimination from a medal. Others are looking to sweep their pool for better winning odds in the semifinal.
1) Must-win for China
The Chinese nearly dropped their previous match against Germany. They struggled in sets three and four even though they cruised in the first two. However, they still came out with a win after a 15-9 fifth set. Unfortunately, they are at a 1-1 record in Pool A after losing to Japan in four sets.
Therefore, they cannot afford the same meltdown against Poland which defeated Japan in four. China must establish their blocking against Poland’s Agnieszka Kakolewska and Malwina Smarzek to finish pool play at 2-1. Doing so will put pressure on Japan to win against Germany in order to advance to the semis.
On the flip side, the Chinese must continue their balanced attack on offense to constantly fool the Polish net defenders. Though Li Yingying is their main weapon, Linyu Diao must provide opportunities for Fang Duan and Hanyu Yang too. Finally, China must aim to win in four sets at most to get three match points.
2) Japan needs a quick victory too
Coach Kumi Nakada’s squad must win against Germany in three or four sets. Aside from handing the Germans their second straight loss, Japan’s three match points will eliminate China from medal contention as well. However, that’s easier said than done especially with how Coach Nicki Neubauer’s team took the Chinese to the distance.
Louisa Lippmann and Hanna Orthmann will be the biggest thorns on Japan’s semifinal hopes. Lippmann sparked a rally that allowed the Germans to come back from six points down to take set three. The opposite spiker from Herford finished the game with 29 points, 26 off attacks.
Neutralizing Lippmann’s spikes will be the priority for Japan in their match. This is a make-or-break task that can spell the difference between elimination and the semis.
3) Defending champions Italy on the ropes
Every game counts in short tournaments such as the Montreux Masters. That’s why the Italians have to win as well if they want to defend their title. However, they will be facing a tough challenge against Turkey which tallied 17 kill blocks against Switzerland. Italy must also slow down Gozde Yilmaz and Fatma Yildirim to avoid an 0-2 hole.
The success of Davide Mazzanti’s squad will heavily rely on Alessia Orro’s ball distribution to Sylvia Nwakalor, Indre Sorokaite, and Elena Pietrini. Otherwise, Turkey’s Yasemin Guveli and Asli Kalac might have a field day at the block.
On the other hand, a win by Turkey will tie them with Thailand at 2-0. Their match on May 16 will determine their semifinal opponents.
4) Switzerland and Thailand take a break
Two teams on opposite ends of Pool A will take time to rest. Thailand has been magnificent so far after defeating the Italians and the Swiss to get the maximum six match points. Onuma Sittirak is leading the way with 15 points per contest while Pleumjit Thinkaow is averaging 10 markers per game.
Malika Kanthong and Chatchu-on Moksri were impressive in the respective games they played. The former scored 14 points against Italy and sat the game versus Switzerland. Taking her place was Moksri who posted 13 scores against the Swiss. Coach Danai Sriwatcharamaytakul is giving his players court time to find the most explosive combination.
Meanwhile, Switzerland won two of eight sets played which is an improvement because they didn’t get any last year. Maja Storck has been their go-to player by averaging 19 points in two games. Laura Kunzler is also contributing 12 points per game. Gabi Schottroff is also a bright spot for Coach Timo Lippuner with nine blocks in two games.
5) Poland can do damage in a lot of ways
A glance at the individual statistics show that Poland is the most well-rounded team in the Montreux Masters. Kakolewska leads the tournament in spikes with a 47.62% success rate. The Polish team captain is also the best blocker with an average of two stuff blocks per set.
Meanwhile, Marlena Plesnierowicz is the top setter with 11.75 good attempts per set. Finally, libero Paulina Maj Erwardt leads the competition in receiving and digging. She has an 85% efficiency rate in service receptions and 4.75 average excellent digs per set.
The Poles are proving to be a versatile team by leading five of the seven individual categories. They will only grow stronger if they can keep this up.