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Zhu steals the show against Dutch as China make VNL finals intentions crystal clear

 
Nanjing, China, June 27, 2018 - Superstar Zhu Ting was in irresistible form with a match-high 35 points as China set the FIVB Volleyball Nations League finals off and running with a 3-1 (20-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-18) victory over the Netherlands.

The wing spiker has been the shining light for her side during a mixed tournament so far for China but led by example as the Rio Olympic Games gold medallists gave all their VNL finals rivals plenty to ponder at the Olympic Sports Centre.

Zhu's tally included 29 kills from 63 attempts, along with four huge blocks and two aces - and the home fans loved every second of the action. Also chiming in for China were middle blocker Yuan Xinyue and opposite Gong Xiangyu with 10 points apiece.

The Netherlands started brightly, looking to repeat their win over China the last time these two nations met - back on June 13 - when the Dutch won 3-1, thanks in no small part to opposite Lonneke Sloetjes' match-high 28 points. But, after a bright start, they really had no answer to Zhu's heroics.

Sloetjes was again their leading attacking force with a team-high 21 points that featured 19 kills from 43 attempts, while wing spiker Anne Buijs put in another solid shift with 20 points of her own.

But the story of the night was all about Zhu and what the Olympic MVP brings to the Chinese side. She was everywhere and, it seemed, capable of doing anything - as that points tally suggests.

It has been a tournament of mixed fortunes so far for the hosts, with coach Lang Ping never hiding the fact that she wanted to use the pool stages as a testing ground for the talent in her squad at her disposal, given the fact China were always guaranteed a spot in the finals as host nation.

That meant some rest in the early rounds for Zhu, who'd come off a big season in Europe. But even with their star playing, China's form had been patchy coming in to Nanjing, losing to the Netherlands and Turkey, both 3-1, as group matches came to a close.

The Dutch, meanwhile, had been on a tear, winning their last four and gunning for five in a row, a mark not achieved since they racked up a streak of nine - in the end - across the 2014 World Championships and the 2015 World Grand Prix. It certainly looked during the first set like that run was set to continue - until Zhu took charge of the match.

The Netherlands now back up against Brazil on Thursday, while China have a day to recover before meeting the same opponents on Friday.


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