Italy (ITA) vs. Poland (POL) women - Pool 1 - Preliminary Phase #15431599

Agnieszka Korneluk in attack

In their opening Volleyball Nations League 2024 game, Poland shut out Italy in Antalya on Tuesday evening with Magdalena Stysiak spearheading the attack and Agnieszka Korneluk pillaring the team’s blocking effort. The Netherlands swept the other Pool 1 match against Bulgaria earlier in the day on the Turkish Mediterranean coast.

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The score of 3-0 (28-26, 25-23, 25-21) Poland’s way brought the winners 10.63 points towards the FIVB World Ranking and they immediately climbed two positions up to number five. Down by the same amount of points, Italy fell two positions down to number seven, below sixth-ranked China, but still well above the other candidates for the remaining Olympic vacancies.

Poland’s opposite Stysiak produced a match-high 17 points, including 15 kills in attack, one ace and one block. Middle blocker and captain Korneluk impressed with her five kill blocks towards an 11-point tally. Their teammates, outside hitters Natalia Medrzyk and Martyna Lukasik, also reached the double digits with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Opposite Ekaterina Antropova led Italy with 16 points, while outside Caterina Bosetti and middle Anna Danesi added 10 points each.

In the money time of a rollercoaster first set, Poland denied four Italian set points before Medrzyk aced to bring in the first set point for her team. It was converted immediately to a 28-26 close with a powerful kill by Lukasik. After 13-13 in the second set, Poland broke away and never looked back. With Stysiak on fire in attack and Korneluk taking care of the monster blocks, and despite Italy’s efforts to come back, the Poles doubled their lead with a 25-23 win. Set three was competitive through 18-18, when Poland broke away with five in a row on Lukasik’s turn to serve. Shorty after, sub-in Julita Piasecka closed the match at 25-21 and 3-0 Poland’s way.

Italy (ITA) vs. Poland (POL) women - Pool 1 - Preliminary Phase #15431587

Polish players celebrate

“I think in this game we didn’t do many of the beautiful things we do in training, maybe because it was the first time for some of the girls and they were a little bit too emotional. But I have faith in my team and we’ll just keep going,” said Italy’s captain Danesi after the match. “This is a new role for me, but I still have to give my 100% for the team and put my experience in favour of the team on the court.”

“The beginning was difficult for us. Then we had ups and downs, but the most important is the 3-0 score in our first game,” Polish captain Korneluk added. “Now we have two days off and our staff will prepare the best plan for us on how to best combine practice and rest to be ready for the next three games.”

In their next matches, Poland will take on France on Friday at 17:00 local time (14:00 UTC) and Italy will face Germany on Thursday at 14:00 (11:00).

Bulgaria (BUL) vs. Netherlands (NED) women - Pool 1 - Preliminary Phase #15422665

Celeste Plak tries to overcome the Bulgarian block

VNL action in Antalya started earlier on Tuesday. The Netherlands took the full 3.82 points towards the World Ranking available for a straight-set win over Bulgaria and stayed put in number 10, just above the cut-off line for Paris. The southern Europeans lost the same amount of points and dropped one position down the chart to number 21. Celeste Plak contributed a match-high 12 points, including three kill blocks, towards her team’s 3-0 (25-14, 25-20, 25-22) victory, while captain Miroslava Paskova led Bulgaria with 11 points.

Tuesday’s competition day will continue with the Pool 2 games in Rio de Janeiro. China take on Korea at 17:30 local time (20:30 UTC) before hosts Brazil entertain Canada at 21:00 (00:00).

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