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Women’s VNL – Who are your breakout teams in 2019?

USA celebrate winning the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League in 2018
Lausanne, Switzerland, May 6, 2019 – With the second edition of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League set to get underway in just over two weeks, editors Anna Tomas, Constantine Dimaras and Nikolay Markov let us know who they think might do well in this year's women's competition. Join the conversation and have your say on this year's favourites on the FIVB’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

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Anna Tomas
A sport information specialist based in Manila, Philippines, Anna Tomas worked as a volleyball specialist at the 2006 Asian Games and 2008 Olympic Games and has been an editor since 2013 and a media delegate for AVC and FIVB competitions. One of her favourite memories is of the thousands of fans who flocked to Katowice to support Poland in the final of the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship.

Serbia's productive 2018 season make them a top contender for the VNL this year. They finished in the final six of the VNL and capped their season with the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship title victory. They have another opportunity to extend their reign if they field an intact line-up led by World Championship MVP Tijana Boskovic, best blocker Milena Rasic and captain Maja Ognjenovic.

Turkey and Italy are dark horse contenders for this year’s VNL title - both squads made smashing runs in last year’s tournaments. These two teams could catch momentum again and give defending champions USA a run for their money.

After a breakthrough performance last year, finishing second in the VNL, the Turkish women are raring to move up one step on the podium. With master tactician Giovanni Guidetti guiding them for the second straight year and gaining experience from their vibrant club league which includes many of the world’s top players, the young Turkish side know how to face tough competition.

Coach Karch Kiraly of the USA and coach Giovanni Guidetti of Turkey before the 2018 Women's VNL final between Turkey and USA.

Italy missed the cut for the final round of the 2018 VNL, but they bounced back to claim silver at the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship in Japan. Young heavy-hitting players Paola Egonu and Miriam Sylla lead the Italian team’s offence, while veteran Monica De Gennaro heads their strong defence. The Italians are definitely hungry to claim a title this year.

Constantine Dimaras
A long-standing FIVB writer and media delegate based in Greece, Constantine Dimaras first started contributing to the international federation's website in 2006. Favourite memories include covering the 1986 FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship in France and working for the Olympic News Service at the Athens 2004 Olympics.

The 'usual suspects' of reigning world champions Serbia, reigning Olympic champions (and hosts of the Final Six) China, and defending Volleyball Nations League champions USA would be the obvious choices for favourites in the 2019 FIVB Women's VNL.

But there's one parameter that should be taken into consideration: The Olympic Qualification Tournaments for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are just around the corner, following on the heels of the VNL and involving all of the three above-mentioned teams plus all the rest of the world's powerhouses.

With near impossibility for any team to actually peak twice in the same season, it remains to be seen how each of the contenders for the VNL crown will manage their resources during the more than month-long tournament.

China captain Zhu Ting spikes the ball during the match for third place in the 2018 VNL.

Nikolay Markov
A Bulgaria-based volleyball, beach volleyball and snow volleyball journalist, Nikolay Markov is an editor since 2012. In 2008 he founded and later worked at the CEV and the BFV. Since 2011 he has been in charge of media communications at VC Maritza Plovdiv. He played some volleyball at college level in the United States and at amateur level in Bulgaria.

The Volleyball Nations League spans over five weeks of round robin play, followed by the final six tournament, and requires a lot of stamina from the participating teams. To be successful, the coaches need to have a lot of depth in their rosters to be able to spread their energy wisely across the entire duration of the VNL.

Therefore, I think the teams most likely to emerge on the Nanjing podium on July 7 are the ones coming from the big countries, traditional volleyball powers, with a wide selection of strong and experienced players, backed up by a talented young generation.

Defending champions United States are certainly one such country. Their national team, led by experienced coach Karch Kiraly, have already proven they have the necessary capacity and the right attitude to win a competition like the VNL and I am confident they can do it again. Hosts China have the additional advantage of being able to keep their focus mostly on the finals as they don’t need to qualify. With the home crowd on their side and one of the world’s best players, Zhu Ting, on the squad, Lang Ping’s side will give their best to do better than the bronze last year and I see them reaching the final. Italy failed to make the final six in 2018, but their fantastic young team, led by powerful opposite Paola Egonu, is now one year older and one year more experienced. Add the confidence that comes with the World Championship silver and we have medal contender.

Will Paola Egonu lead Italy to victory in 2019?

Carrying on from last year’s successful competition, the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League continues on the same format of 12 core teams and 4 challenger teams per gender.

The women’s core teams include Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Russia, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey and USA. The challenger teams are Belgium, the Dominican Republic and Poland, plus newly promoted Bulgaria who won last year’s Challenger Cup to replace Argentina who were relegated in 2018.

Players returning to the competition include 2018 MVP Michelle Bartsch-Hackley of the United States. She is joined by 2018 Dream Teamers TeTori Dixon (USA), Zhu Ting (China), Cansu Ozbay and Eda Erdem Dundar (both Turkey) and Tandara Caixeta and Suelen Pinto (both Brazil). Other players to look out for include 2018 world champions Maja Ognjenovic and Tijana Boskovic from Serbia, top scorer Paola Egonu of Italy and a host of athletes from the world's best club championships.

Click here to find out which players have been selected. You can also browse the competition website for information about the competition format, match schedule, host cities and the latest news.

Starting on May 21 for the women and May 31 for the men, the 2019 VNL retains a similar calendar to last year, with women playing during the week and
men playing over the weekends in pools of four teams each until each has played against every other in a single round robin tournament. The women's Finals will follow in Nanjing, China from July 3 to 7 and the men's Finals in Chicago, USA from July 10 to 14.


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