2018 FIVB MEN’S VOLLEYBALL NATIONS LEAGUE – WEEK 1/POOL 3
- May 25th-27th, 2018
- Spodek, Katowice, Poland (seating 11,500) on May 25th & Tauron Arena Krakow, Krakow, Poland (seating 22,000) on May 26th and May 27th
- Time Zone: GMT + 2 (US Eastern Time +6)
- World Rankings: #3 Poland, #4 Russia, #6 Canada, #21 South Korea,
|Date||Local Time||U.S. Eastern Time||Home||Visitor|
|25 May||16:00||10:00||Poland||South Korea|
|26 May||19:00||13:00||Canada||South Korea|
|27 May||19:00||13:00||South Korea||Russia|
Entering the first week of the Volleyball Nations League, all 16 teams are on equal footing. This year, our team predicts it will take 25 or 26 points, which translates to 2 wins per week, to advance out of pool play to the Final 6.
A 3-0 or a 3-1 win earns the maximum 3 points for the winner and 0 points for the losers. A 3-2 win earns 2 points for the winner and 1 point for the loser.
Poland has shown the ability to draw huge crowds for volleyball matches, and with the two biggest venues of the first week of the Volleyball Nations League, they’ll hope to kick off the tournament with a bang this week.
The hosts are technically the highest-ranked team in the pool at 3rd in the world, but that’s weighted heavily on their World Championship from 2014, which hasn’t been reflected in more recent results (8th in last year’s World League, 5th at the 2016 Olympics, and just 10th at the home Euroepan Championships last year.
While they await Wilfredo Leon’s eligibility, which will immediately change the fate of the program, but for now they’ll be boosted by the return of Dawid Konarski, who missed the European Championships with a knee injury.
Among the teams they’ll face are Canada, who are a huge question-mark after their surprise run to 3rd at last year’s World League. They are without John Gordon Perrin and Sharone Vernon-Evans, though, who sparked their offense last year. Russia too is without a number of stars, including Maxim Mikhailov, coming off the Champions League, who didn’t play in last year’s World League but is on the 21-man extended roster. Not on the 21-man roster is Maxim Zhigalov, who led the team in scoring at last year’s World League.
All of that to say, this might be the most wide-open pool of week 1, though South Korea will be the underdog in all three of their matches.
STORYLINES TO WATCH
- Canada – We’ve alluded to it, but Canada needs to find offense. 23-year old Stephen Maar is the first stop – he hit 50% in last year’s World League to rank 7th among all players in Group 1. The play at opposite will be the bigger question mark, with 6’6″ Ryan Sclater making the transition from opposite and Bradley Gunter coming off a little bit of run early in last year’s World League at opposite. As go those two, so will go the fate of Canada.
- Poland – With Konarski and captain Michal Kubiak both active, Poland’s offense should be sound at the outsides. They won’t have middle blocker Mateusz Bienek, who was good for about 7 kills per game last season out of the middle. Poland doesn’t have great depth in the middle, and the pressure will be on 20-year old Jakub Kochanowski to support Bartlomiej Lemanski at the net for the hosts.
- Russia – The Russians will be contenders when they return to full strength later in the tournament. One of the most experienced rosters at full-strength, they’ll ironically count on a 21-year old outside hitter for most of their offense in week 1: Egor Kliuka. He was Russia’s second-best scorer in the gold medal match of last year’s European Championship, in spite of only playing in three-and-a-half sets. He played well in the World League, but his role was diminished at the European Championships – until he was brought on late to start 3 of the last 4 sets at the European Championships. Though he only wound up with 3 kills on 9 swings and 1 block, that confidence turned into a season with Novy in the Russian SuperLeague that showed flashes of brilliance, if inconsistency.
- South Korea – Lee Kang-Wong is this team’s offense, and he’s not playing this week, so South Korea, like most of the teams in this pool, will have to get creative on offense. Choi Hong-Suk is a capable replacement at opposite, but they’ll need more than that to pull off a win in pool 3.