Thailand (THA) vs. Poland (POL) women - Pool 1 - Preliminary Phase #4826308

Poland’s libero Maria Stenzel fires up her teammates

Poland and China, two of the three unbeaten teams from the first competition week of the women’s Volleyball Nations League 2023, will lock horns on Saturday to highlight week two Pool 3 action, set to take place from Tuesday, June 13, through Sunday, June 18, in Hong Kong. The clash between the number one and the number two teams in the current standings, separated only on point ratio, will start on June 17 at 20:30 local time (12:30 UTC).

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The match will also feature a face-to-face encounter between the tournament’s best scorer and best attacker so far, Li Yingying of China, and the best blocker, Agnieszka Korneluk of Poland. Before that, the European team will also meet the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, Türkiye on Thursday and the Netherlands on Friday. Head coach Stefano Lavarini has made only one change in the roster from the successful week in Türkiye, with Dominika Pierzchala replacing Kamile Witkowska.

“This group and the second VNL tournament, in general, are the most difficult for us. Above all, we are waiting for matches with very demanding world-class rivals,” said Poland’s assistant coach Nicola Vettori.

The Dominicans, who will take on Poland in the pool opener on Tuesday at 17:00 (09:00), spearheaded  by the second best scorer of the first week, Brayelin Martinez, had a mixed performance in Nagoya, finishing the first week on a 2-2 win-loss record and four points in 10th place.

Another challenger team, Canada, who are just above the Caribbean Queens in the standings, in ninth place on 2-2 and six points, will also be in Hong Kong, conducted by the tournament’s best setter so far, Brie King. They will get their weekly campaign underway with a game against hosts China on Tuesday at 20:30 (12:30).

Fourth-placed Türkiye arrive in Hong Kong on 3-1 and 10 points from their home tournament in Antalya. Led by Melissa Vargas, one of the tournament’s standout players so far, they will start against the winless Dutch team on Wednesday, before getting the opportunity to challenge current leaders Poland on Thursday. Friday’s meeting with Canada and Sunday’s match-up with Dominican Republic are next on the Turkish team’s programme.

Wednesday’s competition day will also offer the week’s opening match for Italy and Bulgaria. Before going head to head in Hong Kong, the two southern European teams are neighbours in the table on a 1-3 win-loss record each. With the VNL’s best digger, 19-year-old Mila Pashkuleva on the squad, the Lionesses stand 11th on five points, just above the defending VNL champions, who are 12th on three points.

“We can’t help feeling disappointed with the five-set losses to Dominican Republic and Germany, but we seem to be improving from one match to the next,” said Bulgarian setter and captain Petya Barakova. “We expect good results going forward. We will take on some very strong teams, but we are focused and with a positive mindset. Each one of us must give her best and the results will come, I’m sure...”

“The journey we began in Türkiye now needs a step of growth,” stated Italian outside hitter and captain Myriam Sylla. “If we want to reach the Finals, we also need victories in order to materialize the excellent work done so far.”

Meanwhile in Brasilia, the other eight VNL 2023 participants – hosts Brazil, Croatia, Germany, Japan, Korea, Serbia, Thailand and United States – will engage in the 16 Pool 4 matches.

The VNL Preliminary Phase features three competition weeks per gender, with each of the 16 teams playing a total of 12 matches. The eight best-ranked national teams in the Preliminary Phase will qualify for the Finals, which will be held in Arlington, USA from July 12 through 16, with the host country already with a guaranteed spot.