Ekaterinburg, Russia, May 16, 2018 - Anne Buijs was the star of the show for the Netherlands as they recovered from a set down to see off Argentina 3-1 (22-25, 25-19, 25-8, 25-18) and make it two wins from two in Pool 1 of the women’s Volleyball Nations League.
Buijs had already impressed for the Dutch with 14 points in their opening 3-0 victory over Thailand, and the 26-year-old - twice voted best outside spiker at the European Championships - was simply too hot for the South Americans to handle, coming up with another 15 points to help the Netherlands make it six wins over Argentina in major world-level competitions.
Buijs was ably assisted by her partner-in-crime Celeste Plak, who had top-scored against the Thais with 16 points and added another 13 against Argentina. Middle blocker Nicole Koolhaas (10 points) and captain Maret Balkestein-Grothues (six points) also played their part, while Yvon Belien had seven points, three blocks and two aces.
It was an all-too familiar story for Argentina, who also won the first set against hosts Russia in their first outing before succumbing to a 3-1 defeat. Anahi Florencia Tosi led the way with 11 points, while her sister Agnes Victoria Michel Tosi contributed seven and wing spiker Elina Rodriguez added eight. Captain Florencia Natasha Busquets Reyes also had three points, three blocks and two aces, but in spite of their bright start the world’s 11th-ranked team simply made too many errors - 21 to the Netherlands’ 13.
Just as they had against the Russians, Argentina made a dominant start, with Antonela Fortuna firing them into a 5-1 lead. Plak responded as the Dutch looked to find a foothold, but the women in orange were undone by a series of errors, and loose serves in particular. The South Americans remained on top throughout, with setter Clarisa Sagardia impressing from deep and the Tosi sisters coming up with the goods at the net. Buijs gave some hints of what was to come with some big hits from out on the left, but she was starved of service as Marrit Jasper came off the bench and served into the net to hand Argentina the opener (25-22).
The second set got off to a much narrower start as the Dutch finally started to get into their groove, with good work from Laura Dijkema and captain Balkestein-Grothues helping them stay within touching distance. Argentina briefly threatened to run away with it when an Agnes Tosi block clipped the line to give them a 14-11 advantage, but five unanswered points for the Dutch put them back in the driving seat and they never looked back. Belien and Dijkema continued to frustrate their opponents at the net while Plak added further spikes as Jamie Morrison’s side levelled things up (25-19).
A cute touch from Balkestein-Grothues and another enormous spike from Plak helped the Netherlands move into a 5-2 lead in the third set, and though Busquets Reyes got one back Argentina went completely AWOL, with the Dutch embarking on a devastating streak of eight consecutive points. Buijs and Koolhaas both starred as the Europeans, in total control, took an 11-point lead into the technical time out (16-5). Argentina failed to even make it into double figures as Balkestein-Grothues whipped a brilliant spike cross-court on the way to securing a straightforward set for the Dutch (25-8).
Argentina rallied at the start of the fourth, with a huge spike from Rodriguez cancelling out a nice touch from Belien. It was nip-and-tuck through the early part of the set, but after more excellent work from Belien - first a block and then a sizzling diagonal spike - the Dutch took an advantage that they wouldn’t relinquish (8-6). More magic from Buijs helped them extend their lead to 18-13 by the final time out, and thanks to some fine defensive work from libero Myrthe Schoot they soon brought up six match points. Argentina saved one, but a service fault from Julieta Constanza Lazcano ensured the Netherlands’ 3-1 victory. They should go into Thursday’s crunch game against hosts Russia with plenty of confidence, while Argentina will be desperate to get a first win on the board against Thailand.