Belgium’s captain Ilka Van de Vyver in action during the 2018 VNL
Lausanne, Switzerland, April 12, 2019 – With a total of 924 (or an average of 17.11 per set) running sets, Ilka Van de Vyver topped the best setters chart of the preliminary round in the women’s 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League. Unimpressed by her own individual achievement, the Belgian playmaker looks forward to the second edition of the competition with a positive mindset, hoping her team will seize the opportunity to reach a good result.
Belgium won four of their 15 matches in the 2018 VNL, which proved sufficient for keeping their spot in the next edition, which was their goal. “For a young team from a small country, this result was satisfactory, with an eye on the future,” Van de Vyver told fivb.com. “Nobody likes to lose, but we never gave up and kept fighting through the last game with a positive mindset. We went together through the wins and losses and grew a lot during the VNL. This was really important! It was nice to find out that I was the best setter of the preliminary round and would be cool to do it again. But what really counts is if you win or lose as a team. The real individual awards are given out at the final six, which is a dream for us.”
Ilka Van de Vyver celebrates a point during a VNL match against Brazil
Belgium’s second VNL campaign starts off with a tough challenge – a game against defending champions USA in Bulgaria on May 21. “For us the VNL is a really nice experience and an opportunity to show what we’re able to do against the top teams in the world,” the 26-year-old setter stated. “It would be amazing to repeat our results from last year, but the most important goal for us is to stay in the tournament next year as well.”
In the third week of 2019 VNL competition, from June 4 through 6, Belgium will play against Russia, Poland and world champions Serbia at home in Kortrijk and Van de Vyver is really excited about it. “This will be the first time the VNL comes to Belgium and our friends and family can see us play. It is an opportunity to show Belgium some world-class volleyball. We hope to fill the stands and enjoy the atmosphere with all our fans.”
For Van de Vyver, her participation in the Belgian national team comes with a bonus since her younger sister Jutta also joined the Yellow Tigers, but the two actually have to compete for the same position. “Being together on the team gives us some extra catch-up time, since we don’t get to see each other much during the rest of the year. And our parents need to come to one game to see both their daughters play,” Ilka said with a smile. “I guess our mom gave us the setter genes. Competing for one spot on the court is normal and can only make the team stronger. No panic! We don’t fight at home over this...”
In her club career, Van de Vyver went through teams from Belgium, France, Italy and Slovenia and her big dream is to play in Brazil one day. Since 2017 she has been enjoying the German Bundesliga as a player of Rote Raben Vilsbiburg. This club season has just finished for the Belgian setter and her teammates. They were fifth in the regular season standings, but then fell short of reaching the semifinals after a hard-fought quarterfinal series against Potsdam.
“Everybody can win against everybody in the German league, which makes every game important and interesting for the spectators,” Van de Vyver commented. “The gyms are full and this is a big plus for me as I play better with lots of people on the stands. I also like the conditions at our club a lot, but I keep all options open as far as which team I will play for next season.”
Making the most of her time on the court, Van de Vyver also likes to make the most of her time off. After the VNL last year, she and her boyfriend went to Crete. She is already planning a backpacking trip to Sri Lanka after the VNL this year, a whole new experience for her. Enjoying one of her best friends’ wedding is another thing that fills Ilka with happy summer expectations...
“But the ultimate plan for this summer is to finally graduate as a sports teacher,” the athlete pointed out. “I look forward to the off-season, because during the season I don’t have enough time to do all the things that I like. And I like to hang out with friends and family when I am in Belgium or to relax while visiting different sunny places around the world. When I have no obligations and no pressure, I really live like a ‘carpe diem’ person!”