Paola Egonu and her Italian teammates will be up against China on Thursday
Lausanne, Switzerland, June 6, 2019 – Two of the most successful teams in the women’s 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League are set to clash with each other on the last day of the third week of competition. The fans at the Hong Kong Coliseum will get to see the young squad of Italy take on hosts China at 20:30 local time on Thursday as both sides try to continue their winning streaks.
With world-class striker Paola Egonu taking over full-time duties on the Italian squad from Indre Sorokaite, who was one of the best players in the VNL so far, the southern European team shut out Japan on Wednesday to improve to a 7-1 win-loss record. Egonu top-scored 20 points for the World Championship runners-up as they continued on high speed towards the finals in Nanjing. China’s big star Zhu Ting did her fair share of the straight-set win over the Netherlands on Wednesday. She led all scorers with another 18 points, just as she did against Japan the previous day. The reigning Olympic champions are now on a six-game winning run, after losing their first two matches of the season.
The hosts have the opportunity to surpass Italy for the third place in the current standings, if they add a seventh consecutive victory to their record and snatch the three points from the game. However, in each of their last 19 VNL matches, Italy have won at least two sets. China's last world-level victory over Italy was a 3-1 win at the 2017 World Grand Prix. The Italians have defeated China in their last five matches at major world-level competitions. In the 2018 VNL the European team scored a four-set victory over the Asian opponent and followed up with two win (3-1 and 3-2) at the 2018 World Championship.
Japan (4-4) and the Netherlands (2-6) will try to achieve their first victory in Hong Kong as they face each other in Thursday’s early match, starting at 17:30 local time. "I hope that our team can improve and continue to achieve more after every match, and can do even better in the next match against Japan," Netherlands’ assistant coach Alessandro Beltrami said.
The USA fans expect their favourites to continue their winning ways at Lincoln’s Pinnacle Bank Arena. After their three-point victories over Korea and Germany, the Americans, now standing second on 7-1, are set to face their toughest challenge yet this week. Starting at 19:30 local time, the home team will be challenged by Brazil (5-3).
Kelsey Robinson scored her first 18 points (including four stuffs and three aces) of the season to become the most prolific player of the straight-set win over Germany on Wednesday, while coach Karch Kiraly once again proved unpredictable in his choice of starters for the match. Recovering from the German upset on Tuesday, Brazil hammered out an emphatic shutout of Korea with Gabriela Braga Guimaraes leading the way on 14 points.
“That should be a fun one,” Kiraly said ahead of the match with the South American rival. “Brazil are a legendary programme and have a great coaching staff. We are excited and looking forward to the challenge.”
“For me, USA are one of the favourites to win the VNL. So it will be a really difficult game,” commented Brazil’s captain Natalia Pereira.
Germany (2-6) and Korea (1-7) will try to finish their appearance in Lincoln on a high note as they meet at 16:30.
Table leaders Turkey are out to get their fifth consecutive and eighth overall victory as they take on hosts Thailand (3-5) at the Huamark indoor stadium in Bangkok at 18:05 local time. With another impressive performance from the tournament’s best attacker so far, Ebrar Karakurt, the Turks crushed bottom-placed Bulgaria in straight sets on Wednesday. Karakurt topped the charts of the match with 17 points, while teammate Hande Baladin, now fourth in the best spikers ranking, registered four blocks for a total of 12 points. The Turkish team have all they need to dominate the net, while Thailand will have to rely on VNL’s best setter Nootsara Tomkom, two of the top four receivers, Piyanut Pannoy and Chatchu-On Moksri, as well as the fantastic support from the home crowd in Bangkok. The hosts will look to recover from their tie-breaker loss to the Dominican Republic, in which Chatchu-On’s 23 points, including 20 spikes, placed her third in the best attackers chart.
"It is going to be a very difficult game for us. First of all, everybody knows what amazing volleyball Thailand can play. They can play well in every element of the game. It will be a very complicated game playing in front of this amazing crowd. So we are very excited to play this kind of match," Turkey’s coach Giovanni Guidetti said.
"I have to admit that it will be a very tough match for us against Turkey tomorrow. They do a very good job in blocking. I think they have improved a lot,” Thailand’s coach Danai Sriwacharamaytakul returned the compliments. “We will try our best to play against them and we will focus on our serving and speed."
Rookies Bulgaria (0-8) will desperately seek to defeat the Dominican Republic (4-4), if they want to save any realistic hope of avoiding relegation. As the two challenger teams lock horns at 15:05, the Caribbean queens will hope the tournament’s second best scorer and second best attacker so far, Brayelin Elizabeth Martinez, who hammered out a fascinating 36 points against Thailand, is on fire again, despite the VNL’s best digger Zhana Todorova trying to keep the ball flying on the other side of the court.
Another challenger team, Belgium, will have a tough encounter with the young team of Serbia to close the three days of action at the Lange Munte in Kortrijk. After losing to Poland in four sets on Wednesday, the home team dropped to 4-4 in the league. With the best servers chart topper Marlies Janssens on the squad, they will look to recover against the world champions as they take to the court for their last home match at 20:15 local time on Thursday. The Serbs (5-3) displayed some fantastic blocking resulting in 17 stuffs in their 3-1 win over Russia, with Ana Bjelica leading the scorers on an impressive 27 points (including five blocks). They will be looking to make it three in three out of the pool in Kortrijk to stay well in contention for a spot in the finals.
Magdalena Stysiak emerged as Poland’s top scorer as she contributed 24 points, including four aces, to the victory over Belgium, which improved the team’s record to 6-2. Poland’s regular point-maker Malwina Smarzek, leader of VNL’s best scorers ranking, tallied “only” 21 points this time. Poland and Russia (1-7) will open the last competition day in Kortrijk at 17:15 local time.
All VNL matches are available live and on-demand on Volleyball TV
June 5 – all results:
June 6 – full schedule: