It’s the second to the last day of pool play in the Montreux Masters 2019 and teams are still jockeying for position. Still, China, Italy, and Japan moved one step closer to the semifinals. However, that could change depending on the outcome of Day 4.
1) Li Yingying is a budding superstar
The 19-year-old led the Chinese to a four-set victory over Poland. Li tallied 21 attacks, a block, and an ace to pace China to their second win in three games. This is her second game of 20+ points and the Montreux is giving her a confidence boost in time for the Volleyball Nations League.
While her talent is undeniable, the speed and mechanics of her attacks can still be improved. Likewise, she should get more blocks given her height. But there no question that she’s an offensive weapon that will a fixture of the Chinese national team for a long time.
2) Errors can negate great effort
Five Turkish players were in double figures in their match against Italy. They also had the edge in attack points, 49-39. However, they committed 39 unforced errors which allowed the Italians to win in four sets. Davide Mazzanti’s crew also had a 15-9 advantage in kill blocks.
Same thing happened for Germany against Japan. The Germans had a 57-54 advantage in attacks and 9-2 advantage in kill blocks. But 38 errors killed their hopes of getting their first win in the Montreux Masters. In contrast, the Japanese only had 17 blunders which propelled them to a four-set masterpiece.
3) Asian teams holding their ground
Thailand is leading Pool B with a 2-0 record. They defeated the defending champions in their opener and had a repeat over hosts Switzerland. Last year’s Asian Games silver medalists are looking to complete a clean slate when they face Turkey. Onuma Sittirak is leading the Thais with 16 points per game while four other players have scored at least ten points in their two matches.
On the other hand, Pool A is led by Japan and China. After defeating the defending Olympic champions, the Japanese bowed to Poland in four sets before bouncing back with a four-set triumph over Germany. Meanwhile, China is on a two-game win streak after defeating the Germans and the Poles.
4) Malwina Smarzek is an emerging sensation for Poland
If Germany has Louisa Lippman, Poland has Smarzek. The opposite spiker from Zary scored 31 points in their four-set defeat to China. That makes her only the second player in this year’s Montreux to tally 30+ points in a game. The first one is, you guessed it right, Lippmann.
Smarzek is averaging 25.5 markers in two games and is looking to be Coach Jacek Nawrocki’s main weapon. But as great that number is, it also highlights how predictable their offense is. Smarzek took 61 attempts to get 29 attack points. Compare that to Martyna Grajber’s 20 tries which is second-most for the Poles in that match.
5) Five of the eight teams still vying for a semis slot
There’s still a slim possibility that even Thailand can miss the semifinals if they lose to Turkey in three or four sets. Meanwhile, the Italians are in the hunt for the second semis spot in Pool B if they win against Switzerland. Likewise, the host team can play spoiler and guarantee that there will be a new champion with a win.
Even the semifinalists from Pool A are not yet settled. China can still be relegated to the classification phase if Poland can defeat Germany in three or four sets. That would be a tall order, though, as the Germans have proven that there’s no quit in them. The Chinese can only wait and hope that Coach Nicki Neubauer’s troops will pull off the victory.