It is only eight months since teenage sensation Paola Egonu lit up the 2018 Montreux Volley Masters, and it’s already time for heroes to be made once again as some of the world’s best return to Lake Geneva the 2019 edition.
While Japan prepare to face China and reigning champions Italy ready themselves to defend their title against on Thailand in Monday’s opening games, we take a look back at what happened last September when the Azzurri grabbed gold.
An inauspicious start
Few would have backed Italy for glory after they were brushed aside 3-0 by Turkey in their 2018 Montreux Masters opener, while Brazil emerged as early pace-setters by beating Russia 3-1 despite being without star point-scorer Tandara Caixeta due to injury.
The early form turned on its head on day two, when Brazil succumbed to a 3-2 defeat to a Poland side inspired by Malwina Smarzek, who scored 31 points on 29 kills to build on her superb Nations League performances, while Egonu began to fire for Italy as they blew China away 3-0.
Hosts bow out
Switzerland were dumped out of the tournament without winning a single set, and Cameroon suffered the same fate in Group B, where they lost in straight sets to group winners Brazil, and to Russia who edged into the semi-finals just a point clear of third-placed Poland.
Then just 19, Egonu tore into an experienced Brazil side and achieved a 40 per cent hit rate, notching 25 kills on 62 swings as well as chipping in with five blocks and a pair of aces to help Italy clinch a 3-2 win and a spot in the final.
But in the final Italy faced a daunting task as they went up against Russia and their indomitable opposite Nataliya Goncharova, who plundered 19 points and 18 kills from just 34 swings in their 3-1 semi-final defeat of Turkey.
Showdown: Egonu v Goncharova
The tournament’s two most dangerous attackers went head-to-head in a showpiece final in front of 1,800 fans at the Plage du Pierrier Clarens, and they did not disappoint.
Fittingly, it was Egonu who rose when Malinov sat the ball up at the net at match point and delivered a crushing spike that clinched gold for her country.
She was crowned MVP after a superb tournament, which set her up for the World Championship where she was named Best Opposite Spiker as Italy finished runners-up.
Montreux Master’s team MVP’s
The team MVPs, as selected by the Montreux Masters jury, were:
Brazil: Gabi Guimaraes (outside hitter)
Tournament MVP: Paola Egonu