Five things we learned from Day 5 of the Montreux Masters

The pairings for the medal matches in the Montreux Masters 2019 have been settled. But the semifinal matches were devoid of excitement. Winners took the matches in straight sets and in dominating fashion at that. The seventh place game took longer to complete but it is roughly one-sided as well. Hoping for better games in the final day of competition.

1) Germany had the last laugh

Switzerland had a promising start in the seventh place game when they took the opening set, 25-21. However, it was all downhill since as Germany took the next three frames. Louisa Lippmann paced the Germans with 21 points while Nele Barber added 14. It was Germany’s lone victory in the tournament.

The home team finished last once again. But there was marked improvement in their performance this year as proven by the four sets they won. Maja Storck and Laura Kunzler are promising athletes that can bring Switzerland’s women’s volleyball program to greater heights. But for now, the better team won as all statistical categories went Germany’s way.

2) Tough luck for Thailand

They were regarded as the dark horse of the Montreux Masters after defeating Italy and Switzerland. Sadly, the downward spiral started when they fell to Turkey in four sets. The Thais managed to clinch a semifinal berth, only to bow to Poland in three sets.

Coach Danai Sriwatcharamaytakul’s squad couldn’t deal with Poland’s height as their opponents dominated in blocks, 13-4. As a result, the Poles had 41 attack points while Thailand only had 31. Worst, last year’s Asian Games silver medalists scored only nine points in the second set.

These are troubling results coming into the Volleyball Nations League. But with better players reinforcing the unit, Thailand can exact revenge against their conquerors in Week 1 of the VNL.

3) Poland peaking at the right moment

Coach Jacek Nawrocki’s troops have been dominating the competition since their four-set loss to China. They dropped only one set since and limited opponents to an average of 18 points in the sets they’ve won. Likewise, Thailand’s nine points in set two tied the lowest score per set in the tournament.

Malwina Smarzek dominated the Thais with 17 attacks, two blocks, and two aces. Team captain Agnieszka Kakolewska contributed ten points while Natalia Medrzyk added nine. Klaudia Alagierska tallied five kill blocks out of ten attempts. Poland will be on a high going into the gold medal match against Japan.

4) Bitter ending for Italy

There will be a new Montreux Masters champion this year. Not much is expected of this squad due to the non-inclusion of Paola Egonu, Miryam Sylla, and Anna Danesi to name a few. Many wrote them off after losing to Thailand on opening day. But they completed the uphill climb by defeating Turkey and Switzerland.

Unfortunately, their quest for back-to-back titles ended when they couldn’t keep up with Japan’s fast tempo. They did dominate in blocks, 7-1. However, Kumi Nakada’s crew had more service aces (7-1) and attack points (48-30). Digs and receptions went Japan’s way too.

Sarah Luisa Fahr was the only Italian player in double figures with 11. In contrast, Yuki Ishii and Miwako Osanai had 19 and 13 for Japan, respectively. Italy will fight for bronze after scoring just 17.3 points per set against the Japanese.

5) Japan fights for gold

It was a masterful performance by the Japanese. They stuck to their strengths and dominated the taller Italians in straight sets. Nanami Seki did a splendid job in varying Japan’s point of attack which left their opponents confused. That translated to 16 attacks per set which means that they needed only nine more points to close out.

The Japanese also limited their unforced errors to limit Italy’s scoring opportunities. Likewise, their 67 digs took away points for their opponents too. Expect Japan to unleash their steady floor defense when they clash with the Poles for the gold.

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