Italian women draw with Czech Republic in friendlies
The event kicked off the preparations of the Italian team for the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix and the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship, where they will host 23 of the best teams in the world.
The friendly matches with Czech Republic marks the significant return of coach Marco Bonitta in the bench, and Taismary Aguero in the court – two personalities who helped write some of the important pages in the history of the Italian women’s team.
“I have very positive feelings during this period,” said Bonitta on working in an ideal environment. “The friendly matches is an opportunity to get to know the athletes on and off the court. This will also be a test for the new players. So far the players I have worked with in the past few days have proven to sustain the pace and level of the national team.”
Bonitta will assess the outcome of the friendly matches to decide which players will make it to the roster of the World Grand Prix.
The Italians’ first match ended with a defeat in straight sets 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 25-17) in San Bonifacio. Italy struggled on their defence against the Czech Republic, even with the entry of Indre Sorokaite pumping up their offense in the second set. Czech Republic's consistency in the match directed them to forcefully secure the first encounter with the Italians.
“We were very tense and emotional – committing several errors in reception,” said Bonitta. “Our team is very young, and for this, we must give them time to grow. Right now the results are not important.”
In their second outing, Italy beat Czech Republic 3-1 (25-27, 25-22, 33-31, 25-18) in Montichiari. Marco Bonitta made some adjustments - putting in Aguero as setter - to steer Sorokaite, Valentina Fiorin, Valentina Diouf and Cristina Chirichella on the attack. The match also featured the debut of Paola Egonu, the youngster who scored the final point of the match.
The Italian team showed positive signs of improvement on their capability to keep up with their opponent. The Italians put on an effective blocking scheme and were more determined on defence, forcing the other side to struggle on putting the ball on the ground.
“Compared to our first match against Czech Republic, I saw some signs of growth, we had better reception, and especially made a great performance in blocking,” said Bonitta on his satisfaction of his team’s performance in the second match. "Since we have completed this training phase, we will communicate within next week on the 22 players for the World Grand Prix."
“I was very excited to bounce back because the last fourteen years has not been easy at all,” said Aguero on her return to the national team. “It gives me great pride to wear the Italian jersey again. For this, I will do my best so that I will not disappoint those who gave me confidence to return to the team.”
In other friendly matches played over the weekend, the Netherlands bested Bulgaria in the first two outings of their three-match series in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The Dutch women defeated the Bulgarians 3-1 (25-13, 24-26, 25-8, 25-20) in their first match. Coach Gido Vermeulen had the luxury to test his player combinations - allowing all 14 players to play in the match.
The Netherlands had to tread a tougher course in the second match against Bulgaria forcing both teams to play the full stretch. Although the Dutch team did a lot of catching up against the hosts, they still emerged victorious in the final set 3-2 (16-25, 25-18, 22-25, 25-18, 15-12).