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Poland start week 3 as favourites against world champs Serbia

Poland’s Smarzek, Kakolewska and teammates ready for more VNL success this week
Lausanne, Switzerland, June 4, 2019 – As women’s 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League Pool 12 action gets underway at 17:15 local time on Tuesday, the fans at the Lange Munte in Kortrijk will get to see the best performing challenger team so far, Poland, take on reigning world champions Serbia.

The Poles arrived in Belgium riding on the momentum of a five-match winning streak and as one of the four teams leading the current VNL standings, each on a 5-1 win-loss record. Serbia occupy the eighth place on 3-3. The southern European team have won three of their last four matches against the central European opponents in major world-level competitions, including a 3-1 victory in last year’s VNL, but with the tournament’s best scorer so far Malwina Smarzek (172 points – 49 clear on top of the rankings) and best blocker Agnieszka Kakolewska leading the way, Poland take the role of favourites against the young Serbian selection.

Ana Bjelica spikes against Italy in Serbia’s last VNL match

“Last week, the growth of our team from one match to the next was evident,” said coach Branko Kovacevic, who is in charge of the Serbian team in Kortrijk. “Our goal is to establish this trend in the next games and keep improving our performance.”

In Tuesday’s late match at the Lange Munte, hosts Belgium (on a 3-3 win-loss record) will rely on the services of the tournament’s best scorer so far Marlies Janssens as they face Russia (1-5) at 20:15.

“Until now Russia have played with some young players and they lost some unexpected matches,” Belgium’s Kaja Grobelna commented. “Here in Kortrijk, five experienced players are coming back so it is impossible to say how well they will be integrated in the team at this point."

The week’s VNL programme will open at the Huamark indoor stadium in Bangkok, at 15:05 local time on Tuesday, with a Pool 11 clash between the Dominican Republic (3-3) and Turkey (1-5). Coach Giovanni Guidetti’s team are 2018 VNL silver medallists and current table leaders, having lost only four sets in six matches so far, which means the well-performing Caribbean squad will get another opportunity to deliver a big upset after they did so against Russia, Brazil and USA. Guidetti has made some changes to his line-up for the trip to Thailand, but will continue to rely on best setters ranking leader Cansu Ozbay to lead Turkey to more success in the league.

Hosts Thailand (2-4) will entertain VNL rookies Bulgaria, the only winless team in the competition until now, in the other Bangkok game on Tuesday, starting at 18:05. “We lost to Bulgaria at the World Championship, but playing here in Bangkok, we hope our Thai fans will come to support us to have our best performance,” Thailand’s coach Danai Sriwacharamaytakul commented. With the tournament’s best digger, Zhana Todorova, on his squad, coach Ivan Petkov still hopes Bulgaria will get on the winning track to save their spot in the VNL.

Despite Bulgaria’s winless run so far, libero Zhana Todorova has been the best digger of the competion

The week will be quite interesting at the Hong Kong Coliseum where the Pool 9 matches will bring together Italy (5-1), the Netherlands (2-4), Japan (4-2) and hosts China (4-2). The first day of competition will get underway with an all-European encounter between the Dutch and the Italians at 17:30 local time.

“We are satisfied with the results of the first two weeks. Now it is fundamental not to stop. 10 wins were not enough to get to the final six last year. This year we started better, but the road is still long and we must keep our concentration high,” said Italy’s coach Davide Mazzanti.

The classic Asian derby between China and Japan will start at 20:30.

Pool 10 featuring the teams of USA (5-1), Brazil (4-2), Korea (1-5) and Germany (1-5) is the last one to get underway this week, as the South American standouts meet the European side at 16:30 local time at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln. Brazil’s line-up will be upgraded by captain Natalia Pereira’s return to action after skipping the first two weeks. The good news for Germany’s coach Felix Koslowski is that classy outside spiker Jennifer Geerties is back on the squad, ready to make her debut in the 2019 VNL and help the team. And with libero Lenka Duerr, the VNL best receivers ranking leader, securing the back court, Koslowski hopes the team will cope with this week’s “three very difficult games against world class opponents.”

Hosts USA will take on Korea at 19:30. This week, best attackers chart topper Andrea Drews will be joined by five core players from last year’s title-winning team. The home fans in Nebraska have a lot to look forward to as outside spikers Jordan Larson and Kelsey Robinson, middle blockers Tori Dixon and Lauren Gibbemeyer and setter Carli Lloyd will appear on the United States’ squad for the first time this season. On the Korean side, this applies to the team’s big star Kim Yeon Koung as well.

“I feel a lot of positive energy and excitement to just get this season started. We have had a great start so far with this VNL and we are hoping to continue that,” said Carli Lloyd.

All VNL matches are available live and on-demand on Volleyball TV.

June 4 – full schedule:

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