Kraljevo, Serbia, May 31, 2018 – Irina Voronkova was once again the driving force behind Russia’s victory in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League, as her team mastered a 3-1 (25-21, 25-20, 23-25, 25-18) defeat of Belgium on Thursday.
Voronkova set the pace for the most part of the match in Kraljevo, contributing a great 23 points, including four stuff blocks and two aces, to Russia’s tally.
202-cm-tall Daria Malygina and middle blocker Angelina Lazarenko also had their solid contribution of 16 and 13 points, respectively.
Belgium put on a great effort and even put an end to their straight-set losing streak with Britt Herbots and Kaja Grobelna leading the way with 14 points each.
Russia stayed in control through the most part of the game, but a seven-point series in the third set gave the Belgians the courage to persevere for the set win. The victory was the sixth for Russia since the start of the competition, while Belgium’s losing streak was extended to six games in a row.
A high-level all-round Russian team effort in the first set was highlighted by Angelina Lazarenko and Daria Malygina, delivering a couple of aces and three spike points each. The main reason Belgium did not fall far behind were the Russian mistakes, which produced more than half of the opponents’ 21 points in the set.
Hitting a 105.5 km/h pipe shot and finishing a 32.5-second mega rally with a kill block early in the second set got Irina Voronkova really fired up for the rest of the set and leading her team in overpowering Belgium. However, Britt Herbots and Kaja Grobelna were also on fire in offence on the other side of the net, keeping Belgium close behind. Their team’s efforts were crowned by a great hit through the middle, followed by a stuff block, for two consecutive points from Marlies Janssens, which tied the score at 15-15. Voronkova aced for 17-15 and finished another long spectacular rally with a back-row hit for 21-16 to spin Russia into another momentum that led to a 25-20 win.
Voronkova continued to fuel that momentum into the third set, as Russia gained a speedy 5-1 advantage. However, the Belgians had no intention of giving up just yet. They went on a seven-point run with Nathalie Lemmens on serving duty and broke away with a 12-7 lead. Voronkova exploded again with a smashing five spiking points in a row to level it at 13-13, but even this did not break Belgium. The young squad of coach Gert Vande Broek stepped up their attacking efforts with Celine Van Gestel leading the way. Substitute Laure Flament put two balls on the floor to bring her team to a triple set point. Finally, Grobelna fired from the back row to close the set at 25-23.
At 13-11 Belgium’s way in the fourth set, Russia woke up for a nine-point run, highlighted by three consecutive precision-placed aces by Ekaterina Lyubushkina. This was a blow the Belgians could never recover from. A great kill block by setter Tatiana Romanova ended the match at 25-18, fixing the Russian win.
Next week, Russia will travel to Jiangmen to measure up against giants Brazil, USA and hosts China, while the Belgian team will be in the company of Argentina, Germany and the home squad of Poland in Bydgoszcz.