Bydgoszcz, Poland, June 6, 2018 - Kaja Grobelna was on red-hot form as Belgium finally ended their seven-game losing streak in the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League by comfortably seeing off bottom side Argentina 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-14).
Grobelna was by far and away the game’s top scorer with an eye-watering 24 points (17 spikes, four blocks, three aces), almost a third of her side’s total. The 23-year-old opposite spiker - who plays her club volleyball here in Poland, with Grot Budowlani Lodz - was simply everywhere as Belgium claimed their first win since beating the Dominican Republic on May 17, and their third of the 2018 VNL campaign.
Middle blocker Marlies Janssens was immense for the Europeans at the net, repelling wave after wave of Argentine attacks and finishing the game with seven points. She was ably assisted by captain and setter Ilka Van de Vyver, who led by example with five blocks and a spike, as well as spearheading the majority of her team’s attacks.
Belgium’s rising star Britt Herbots had a quiet game by her own high standards, but the 18-year-old wing spiker - her side’s top scorer heading into this one - still managed to grab eight spikes to take her VNL points total to 148. She’s now one behind Grobelna on 149.
Antonela Fortuna led Argentina with eight points - all of them spikes - while sisters Anahi Florencia Tosi and Agnes Victoria Michel Tosi grabbed seven points apiece. Despite being ranked 11th in the world - two places higher than Belgium - Argentina have now lost all 11 of their VNL outings, failing to even pick up a single point.
The South Americans may have got the first point of the match thanks to a fine block from Agnes Tosi, but once Belgium found their groove they began to run away with it. Grobelna made a storming start as the Europeans moved into a 8-2 lead, and the on-fire opposite spiker went on to score eight points in the first set alone. Meanwhile, Van de Vyver and Janssens were defending brilliantly at the net, blocking almost everything Argentina could throw at them. Guillermo Orduna’s side showed flashes of brilliance - with Agnes Tosi in particular on good form - but though they closed the deficit from seven points to just two in the closing stages, Grobelna - who else? - eventually saw Belgium over the line (25-22).
A nice touch from Grobelna gave Belgium a 2-0 lead at the start of the second, and they managed to keep Argentina at arm’s length throughout the set. Herbots was having a fairly anonymous game after her sterling efforts against Germany on Tuesday, but still chipped in with a few big spikes as Belgium remained at least two or three points ahead at all times. Grobelna and Elina Rodriguez continued to trade blows before the Belgians pulled clear after the second technical time out. A delightful touch from Grobelna brought up eight set points, and the No.8 finished it off once again with a well-timed block (25-16).
Belgium once again put the hammer down early in the third, with a huge, 89 kilometre-an-hour spike from Herbots making it 6-2. Forced to play catch-up yet again, Argentina failed to really get out of second gear as Janssens extended Belgium’s lead to 12-3. Grobelna and Herbots continued to add to their tallies as Gert Vande Broek’s side pushed their advantage out to 10 points at one stage, although the Tosi sisters managed to keep things respectable for Argentina by at least getting them into double figures. Some more sensational defending from Belgium kept them comfortably in front, and Van de Vyver’s deflected effort eventually secured her team a second straight-sets victory of the campaign (25-14).
Belgium will look to build on this positive result as they face hosts Poland in Bydgoszcz on Thursday, while Argentina will still be chasing a maiden VNL victory when they take on Germany earlier in the day.