Sloetjes too strong for Dominicans


Rotterdam, Netherlands, June 5, 2018 - The Netherlands bounced back as the hosts dominated the Dominican Republic 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-18) as home favourite Lonneke Sloetjes led the way in Rotterdam on Tuesday.

The opposite spiker smashed down 16 winners on offense (for a total of 18 points) and had the knack of saving her most telling contributions for vital stages of the game to help the homeside bounce back from a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Brazil in week 3. 

Yvon Belien and Celeste Plak backed up Sloetjes with 10 total points each.

Brayelin Elizabeth Martinez was lethal on the other side of the net but her 19 points were simply not enough to overcome her team's unforced errors (20 to the Netherlands' 12).

The encounter seemed lopsided as the Dominicans headed to Rotterdam with just two wins (to seven defeats). Even with Brayelin Martinez, the fourth-best scorer in the VNL on 155 points. In fact, The Netherlands have won eigh of the nine previous encounters with the Caribbean side - their last defeat as far back as 44 years ago, at the 1974 FIVB World Championship, when the two sides met for the first time. 

A tense and tightly contest start saw the Netherlands lead by two heading into the first timeout as both sides were on fire but the Dutch and Femke Stoltenborg wall prevailed (8-6). The Dominicans clawed back into the game however and even took the lead as Brayelin Elizabeth Martinez could do no wrong (15-16). But it didn't last for long as the Dutch proved they were no pushovers with four straight unanswered points... And, after an incredible rally with both sides fighting to keep the ball alive, Lonneke Sloetjes spiked to claim the first set (25-22). 

In front of a partisan crowd, the home side kicked off the second perfectly and raced to an early 5-2 lead. With the wind in their sails, the Dutch strangely collapsed and let their opponents come back to level at 15-15. A strong rally, following a time out called by coach Jamie Morrison, saw the Oranje leapfrog the Dominicans, following a deft play by Sloetjes (21-18). In the business end of the set, Martinez made no mistake and kept her side's hopes alive but the Dutch were in control and the soft hands of Maret Balkestein-Grothues wrapped it up at 2-0 (25-21).

Too many errors plagued the Dominican efforts in the two first sets and it was more of the same in the third as the home side jumped easily in front despite coming back from a 3-0 disadvantage (9-5). From then on, the Dutch seemed unstoppable: a powerful spike by Celeste Plak reinforced the Netherlands' size advantage as they continued their dominance to maintain a healthy edge despite some brilliance from Yonkaira Paola Pena Isabel, who produced one notable spike down the line (15-8). And Stoltenborg put it away at 25-18.