The pool stage of the Montreux Masters 2019 is over. The semifinal match-ups and the classification pairings have been settled. With no team left undefeated, it’s difficult to predict the outcome of this tournament.
1) The Germans and the Swiss battle for seventh place
It’s an all-European showdown for the bottom two. Germany and Switzerland showed promise in the tournament. But if there’s an important takeaway from their campaign, it’s that you can’t rely on one or two people alone. Louisa Lippmann was the only consistent player in double figures for the Germans. Hanna Orthmann scored ten or more in two games but only made two against Poland.
On the other hand, the host team was carried by Maja Storck in their three Pool B games. Gabi Schottroff was also a bright spot for the Swiss but only had four points versus Italy. However, there is improvement in their performance this year because they took three sets total. Compare that to last year wherein they didn’t win any.
Don’t be fooled by this pairing being a seventh place match. Both teams are evenly matched and they will fight to avoid finishing at the bottom.
The Thais could have swept Pool B if not for their loss against Turkey. Still, they made it through the semifinal to face a dangerous Polish squad. Speed will be Thailand’s advantage in this pairing. Nootsara Tomkom will vary their attack to activate Ajcharaporn Kongyot, Malika Kanthong, and Onuma Sittirak.
Meanwhile, Poland will bank on their superior net defense with Agnieszka Kakowleska and Malwina Smarzek providing pressure. Martyna Grajber will provide the offense from the wings while libero Paulina Maj-Erwardt will try to anticipate Thailand’s quick attacks.
3) The Italians will compete against the Japanese
Two countries that were allies during World War II. Now, they are locked in a battle for a shot at the gold medal. The Japanese defeated China and Germany during the pool stage but lost to Poland. Aside from their balanced attack from Yuki Ishii, Yuka Imamura, and Aya Watanabe, their floor defense will be a factor if they are to proceed to the championship match.
Meanwhile, Italy had a bad start after losing to Thailand. They reversed the tide by winning against Turkey and Switzerland to gain the top spot in Pool B. Though their big names are not playing in this tournament, Davide Mazzanti still has reliable players in Indre Sorokaite, Elena Pietrini, and Sarah Luisa Fahr. The Italians have the advantage in blocking, averaging 16.3 kill blocks per game.
The Poles will have a great chance of making it to the gold medal match if Natalia Medrzyk will have a good game. She averaged 11 points in the two games that Poland won in the pool stage. Meanwhile, she only scored four in their loss against China. Marlena Plesnierowicz should get her game going to relieve some pressure off Smarzek and Grajber as well.
Meanwhile, Chatchu-on Moksri will be the difference maker for Thailand. She had 15 points during their victory over Switzerland but had zero in their loss to Turkey. She needs to conjure points to be another threat other than Sittirak and Kanthong.
Ai Kurogo should deliver the goods for the Japanese. She led the squad with 21 points in their victory over China but only had two points in their defeat to Poland. Coach Kumi Nakada will swing for the fences against Italy and she will give the Toray Arrows spikers extended playing time.
Sylvia Nwakalor should provide more points if Italy will advance to the gold medal match. The Japanese floor defense will be in disarray if she will add to the onslaught provided by Pietrini, Sorokaite, and Fahr.