Eboli, Italy, June 13, 2018 – Two teenagers, Paola Ogechi Egonu and Elena Pietrini, shared the top scoring honours in Italy’s 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-19) shutdown of Belgium to keep alive their slim chances of advancing to the finals of the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League.
On the way to the victory, 19-year-old Egonu and 18-year-old Pietrini fired away 19 points apiece. They hammered three aces each, with the powerful opposite also including a couple of kill blocks on her tally.
The way more experienced Lucia Bosetti also had a great match, contributing 12 points to Italy’s win.
With Marlies Janssens leading the way with 13 points, including three stuff blocks and two aces, Belgium did not back down without a fight.
Only once after winning the first rally of the match did Belgium manage to take the lead through the rest of the game – at 13-12 in the first set. They challenged Italy’s domination momentarily in set 3 as well drawing level at 11-11 and 12-12. Inspired by the home crowd in Eboli, Italy extended their head-to-head record with Belgium at major world level competitions to six matches without a single set lost.
Throughout the match, Egonu impressed with her sizzling high-flying hits from pretty much anywhere on the court, even from behind the serving line. She was particularly useful in the critical moments of the third set, when Belgium caught up in the score twice, as on both occasions it was Egonu who put the ball on the floor to restore Italy’s lead.
Pietrini took up a similar role in the first set. When the opponents managed to jump ahead to a 13-12 advantage, she hammered one at 87.5 km/h to balance it back and followed up with an 88 km/h rocket to put Italy in front. To make it irreversible, Egonu finished a 31.3-second mega rally with a back-row spike, before Pietrini aced for the next point.
In fact, the two teenage terminators engaged in a scoring race with each other, taking turns on the top of the chart throughout the game, and it was only fair that they finished on equal foot with a straight-set victory for Italy in their hands. However, the only way Italy can stay alive in the race for the last remaining vacancy in the finals before the last competition day of round-robin play on Thursday is if Turkey lose to Germany in Stuttgart later on Wednesday evening.