Russian women’s team form new partnerships in Fuzhou
Evgenia Ukolova has experience playing with each of the other three members of the Russian team in Fuzhou and begins the new season with Svetlana Popova. Popova is the lesser experienced of the Russian team, playing since 2008. The pair recently won a national tournament in Anapa, Russia in preparation for the season.
Ukolova and Ekaterina Khomyakova played together from 2011 to 2012, during which they won the Klagenfurt Grand Slam in 2012.
Khomyakova now joins Maria Prokopeva in Fuzhou for their first tournament together. During Prokopeva’s three years with Ukolova, the pair collected bronze at the Phuket Open in 2009.
“This is a try. We had several problems over the winter with injury and technical problems so this is just a trial,” said Solustri.
“For sure we will play like this for the first four tournaments of the season, but it’s not established for definite. There is also the possibility that we go back to the old team or make different combinations.
“I am not the only one to decide, I have discussed with the girls and get their point of view and they agreed with me so let’s see over the next couple of weeks.”
After being drawn in the same pool, the Russian women faced each other in their first match in Fuzhou on Thursday, finding it a challenge to play someone so familiar.
“It was a tough match for us. We train together but the official games, this is a different part. I think when you know each other well, it makes it difficult to play against one another. But we tried to focus on our game and happy we finally won,” said Ukolova after the match.
“It’s going ok so far, not perfect but it’s the first tournament in the season so I think it well get easier and easier to play with each tournament.
“In my opinion it’s good when you play in the difficult pool because in the next round for sure you will not play the same teams. It’s good to stay in the strong pool and pass through so that we won’t meet the Chinese girls (Chen Xue and Zhang Xi) in the next round."
Ukolova and Popova finally had to pull out of the tournament in Fuzhou after Popova was troubled with a back injury.
Khomyakova and Prokopeva finished fourth in Pool A and therefore did not progress to the single elimination phase.
The Fuzhou Open is currently underway in China as first of eight Open events during a bumper nine-month season, which also includes the FIVB World Tour – 10 Grand Slams and the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Stare Jablonki, Poland.
The Shanghai Grand Slam is the next tournament on the calendar running from April 30 to May 5.