Paola Egonu has made it big on the world stage.
A silver medal at the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship in 2018 and an FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship title in 2019 were crowned with remarkable performances by the Italian.
But Egonu says it is still early to talk about career highlights.
“I’m too young,” she told Volleyball World.
However, she remembers those great moments vividly.
“The most memorable play for me was scoring the last point of the 2018 World Championship semifinal against China. That gave me crazy joy.”
Italy’s 3-2 (25-18, 21-25, 25-16, 29-31, 17-15) victory in that match included a 45-point scoring outburst by Egonu against the reigning Olympic champions. It guaranteed her country a return to the final of a World Championship for the first time since their title in 2002.
At age 22, Egonu has demonstrated that she can carry a team to victory with her powerful moves and scoring ability. In the 2019 Club World Championship semifinal she showed this again with a phenomenal 38 points in Imoco Conegliano’s tie-break triumph 3-2 (25-23, 20-25, 25-23, 21-25, 23-21) over defending champions VakifBank Istanbul.
“We had a superb comeback against VakifBank Istanbul in the 2019 Club World Chamipionship semifinal in China, when we made an incredible recovery late in the match. That win pushed us towards the title victory.”
But her recent achievements should not mask her earlier accomplishments. Egonu led Italy’s age-group teams to gold at the 2015 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship, where she was also named the tournament's MVP, and to bronze at the 2015 FIVB Volleyball Women’s U20 World Championship.
At 17, she made her Olympic debut with Italy in Rio de Janeiro.
Born in Italy of Nigerian heritage, Egonu took her first steps in the sport in her hometown of Cittadella, north of Padua.
“I was doing well in school and I had free time, so my father pushed me to try different sports. Volleyball was the sport I liked the best. And I am still here playing the sport.”
She joined Club Italia in 2013 at the age of 15 and continued to develop her skills. Joining the senior team at a young age gave her an opportunity to learn from the veteran players who also became her closest friends.
One of those players was Monica De Gennaro, who also plays with her at Imoco Conegliano.
“Monica De Gennaro’s patience, determination, tenderness and ability to help her teammates in difficult situations are great. She also has fire in her eyes in each game we play, though I like her sweet side even more, and her eyes of a mum.”
Paola Egonu’s star is still rising and there is no telling how far she will take her career.
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