2018 FIVB MEN’S VOLLEYBALL NATIONS LEAGUE – WEEK 2/POOL 5
- June 1st-June 3rd, 2018
- Arena Armeec, Sofia, Bulgaria (seating 12,373)
- Time Zone: GMT +3 (US Eastern Time +7)
- World Rankings: #4 Russia, #11 Serbia, #14 Bulgaria, #16 Australia
|Date||Local Time||US Eastern Time||Home||Visitor|
|1 Jun||5 p.m.||10 a.m.||Australia||Russia|
|1 Jun||8 p.m.||1 p.m||Bulgaria||Serbia|
|2 Jun||5 p.m.||10 a.m.||Russia||Serbia|
|2 Jun||8 p.m.||1 p.m.||Bulgaria||Australia|
|3 Jun||5 p.m.||10 a.m.||Serbia||Australia|
|3 Jun||8 p.m.||1 p.m.||Bulgaria||Russia|
After the first weekend of play there are 4 teams who remain unbeaten. Teams earn 3 points for a victory in 3 or 4 sets, 2 points for winning in 5 sets, and 1 point if they lose in 5 sets. Poland and France are the only teams earning a perfect 9 points out of the first 3 matches. Poland sits on top of the table right now since they only lost 1 set in their first pool and have a 9.000 sets ratio over France who lost 2.
When looking at Pool 5, Bulgaria and Russia are on the edge of qualification at this point with a lot more volleyball left to be played. Serbia may be far down on the table, but they likely faced their toughest pool in the first week when they had to play Italy and Brazil. They have a great chance to jump a number of spots when they leave Sofia this weekend.
This pool looks like it could be decided by the match between Serbia and Russia on June 2, 2018. It will be interesting to see what team Russia decides to out on the court. They are strong at opposite with Konstantin Bakun or Victor Poleatev, but will they bring out Maxim Mikhailov now that he has gotten rest from the finish to his professional season with Zenit Kazan? Will Artem Volvic make his debut in this competition? Serbia will more than likely put forth their strongest team, as was their practice in the first weekend of play. This could amount to a meeting of giants.
While they were almost embarrassed by China, Bulgaria come in with a favorable position in the standings and an upset win over Argentina last weekend. It is true that they are without Tsvetan Sokolov, but they have a great deal of talent playing in top leagues around the world. Their biggest challenge will be overcoming inconsistency and the distrust of their federation to put a halt to their run of underachieving. It will be interesting to see if they utilize Nikolay Penchev more this weekend.
Australia will have a difficult time this weekend. While Luke Perry was one of the best passers of the first weekend, they were atrocious as a team in serve receive. There is a very real chance they go into the third weekend of play without a victory.
Star Players to Watch:
- Australia: Every coach will tell you that volleyball starts with the pass. Australia gave up 19 aces in the first weekend of play. These included 5 against Iran, a team that historically utilizes the jump float serve. It will be necessary for Luke Perry to take control of serve receive to allow them to establish continuity in attack. Lincoln Williams got off to a slow start against Japan, but bounced back with 18 points against Iran. He came off the bench and posted a team-high 10 points in less than 2 sets of action against France.
- Bulgaria: Nikolay Uchikov is coming off of a stellar performance in the a 3-1 win over Argentina in which he scored 26 points on 25 kills and a block with an attack efficiency of 54%. One must also look to see if Rozalin Penchev can bounce back after being neutralized by China and shut down by the United States. He found himself on the bench for most of their win against Argentina. It will also be interesting to see if Nikolay Penchev will be used more this weekend. The outside hitter from PGE Skra Belchatow, champions of Poland, did not see meaningful court time until the last match of the first weekend. He came in as a sub in the second set against Argentina and played the rest of the match. He finished with 6 points on 5 kills (50% efficiency) and a service ace, but he is capable of much more.
- Russia: Dmitry Muserskiy can control the match like no other middle blocker in the world. He led Russia in scoring in the matches against Poland and Korea this past weekend. He showed the consistency that Egor Kliuka and Konstantin Bakun lacked. Muserskiy leads the competition in attack efficiency (63.83%), blocking (8 blocks (8 blocks, 0.89 per set) and serving (6 aces, 0.67 per set). With no Sergey Grankin or Alexander Butko on the roster, watch how their setter, Igor Kobzar, can exploit the opponents’ defense through the middle when his outside hitters struggle.
- Serbia: Aleksandar Atanasijevic will be absent from Serbia’s roster this week, robbing the team of a dependable scorer. Drazen Luburic posted an attack success rate of 56.41% last week while only committing 4 errors, so there is a viable option to back up Atanasijevic. Serbia is strong in the middle with Srecko Lisinac and Marko Podrascanin, but Podrascanin will also be out this week.The Serbian setter was plagued by inconsistency during the first weekend and needs to run an effective offense if Serbia is going to assert themselves back into position to get to the Final 6.