A war between nations will commence tomorrow…in the volleyball court, that is.
The United States of America will defend its Volleyball Nations League title against 15 other countries through six weeks of action. After playing all participating teams once, the top five teams and the home squad will advance to the final round.
The six remaining teams will be divided into two pools and play a single round robin. After which, the winner of one pool will play the runner-up of the other in the semifinals. Winners advance to the gold medal match while losers play for the bronze.
This tournament will last for about a month with a rest week from June 21 to July 2. However, 24 matches will be divided among four groups every week.
Hats off in advance if you can watch all games in Week 1. If you have limited time, here are the games that you must pay attention to.
Serbia vs. Netherlands
May 21 @ 18:00 GMT
Coach Zoran Terzic’s squad defeated the Dutch in the semifinals of the 2018 World Championship. Tijana Boskovic and Brankica Mihajlovic combined for 52 points in that four-set game that could have gone either way.
But while The Boss and Mihajlovic are back, Maja Ognjenovic and Milena Rasic are not. Sladjana Mirkovic will take over from Ognjenovic while Mina Popovic will most likely replace Rasic. Bianka Busa and Stefana Veljkovic complete the possible starting rotation.
As for the Netherlands, Lonneke Sloetjes will lead the way together with Anne Buijs and Maret Balkestein-Grothues. Setter Laura Dijkema will also involve middle blockers Yvon Belien and Juliet Lohuis in the offense.
Brazil vs. China
May 21 @ 23:00 GMT
China defeated Brazil in straight sets during last year’s VNL bronze medal match. Zhu Ting tallied 20 points in that game while Li Yingying added 14. Both players will still play in VNL 2019. However, the Brazilians are hoping for a different result.
Joining Zhu and Li are Zhang Changning and Liu Xiaotong. Hu Mingyuan and Yan Ni will build China’s great wall at the net. Ding Xia is their offensive director while Wang Mengjie is their defensive anchor.
Likewise, the fourth best team in the world will feature Tandara Caixeta and Natalia Pereira as spikers. They will team up with middle blockers Ana Beatriz Correa and Ana Carolina Da Silva. Josefa Da Sousa Alves will run the sets while Suelen Pinto takes care of the defense.
Japan vs. USA
May 22 @ 14:00 GMT
The USA won the battle for fifth place in last year’s FIVB World Championship. Japan would like to avenge that defeat by winning this match.
Ranked third in the world, USA will rely on defending VNL MVP Michelle Bartsch-Hackley. She will get ample support from Kelsey Robinson and Jordan Larson. Rachel Adams and Lauren Gibbemeyer will fortify the middle. Carli Lloyd is in charge of setting while Megan Courtney will be their top libero.
Meanwhile, Japan will run most of their attacks to Sarina Koga and Risa Shinnabe. Team captain Nana Iwasaka and Erika Araki Shinomiya will play middle blocker. Haruka Miyashita is their main setter while Mako Kobata will be their top libero.
China vs. Russia
May 22 @ 20:00 GMT
The Chinese will play the Russians a day after they battle the home team. However, Russia seeks for payback against the team that ended their Final Six hopes in the 2018 WCH.
No wonder they are bringing in the best for the VNL. Evgeniya Startseva will set the ball to Tatiana Kadochkina and Irina Voronkova. Irina Koroleva and Angelina Lazarenko are the women in the middle. Alla Galkina will be their main libero.
Turkey vs. Serbia
May 23 @ 18:00 GMT
They played for five sets during their VNL Final Six showdown last year. The Turks emerged victorious with a 16-14 score line in the decider. The Serbs would like to reverse that result this year. However, Turkey won’t go down without a swing.
Meryem Boz and Hande Baladin will play in the wings. Helping them at the middle are Zehra Gunes and Eda Erdem Dundar. Cansu Ozbay will be their main setter and Gizem Orge Guner will play libero.
Thailand v Poland
May 23 @ 18:30 GMT
The Poles will have home court advantage in this rematch of the Montreux Masters 2019 semifinals.
Poland will be led by team captain Agnieszka Kakowleska and opposite spiker Malwina Smarzek. Helping on offense are wing spikers Martyna Grajber and Natalya Medrzyk. Meanwhile, Zuzanna Efimienko-Mlotkowska will help in the net. Marlena Plesnierowicz will run the sets and Paulina Maj-Erwardt will be their top libero.
On the other hand, Nootsara Tomkom will distribute the ball to the likes of Ajcharaporn Kongyot and Wilavan Apinyapong. Pleumjit Thinkaow and Thatdao Nuekjang will play the middle. Piyanut Pannoy will steer their floor defense.