When China took the floor for their opening match of the 2018 FIVB Women’s Volleyball Nations League in Ningbo, China on Tuesday, there was one glaring personality missing, 2016 Olympic MVP Zhu Ting, and a whole lot of new faces.
Zhu’s absence was expected, as she was playing just a week ago in the Champions League and tweaked her ankle in the semi-final. This is a long tournament, with a 5 week preliminary as compared to the previous 3-round affair, and China has an automatic bid to the finals, so there’s no reason for Zhu to be rushed back to the court.
Chinese coaches said that Zhu has returned to China, and was released from this week’s activities to take a 10-day break from volleyball. That break will include medical checkups, rest, and visiting her family, before she re-joins China for week 2 in Macau (China will host 4 of the 5 preliminary pools in which they play).
Lang Ping, the Chinese women’s team head coach, says that her team’s goals are to improve the “physical strength” of their players, and to “test the squad’s rookies.”
To that end, China’s 14-player roster for week 1 has 6 players that are making their debut for their nation. That includes the youngest of them, 18-year old opposite Yingying Li, who might have cemented herself a spot in the team’s rotation even when they return to full strength later in the tournament.
Li led all players in China’s opener against the Dominican Republic with 17 points, and was one of 4players who got their first court action.
|Yuanyuan Wang||Middle Blocker||20||5|
|Yi Gao||Middle Blocker||19||1|
|Yichan Zhang||Outside Hitter||27||DNP|
|Mingyuan Hu||Middle Bocker||21||DNP|
2018 is a crucial year in the Olympic cycle. With Olympic qualifying about to begin, and the World Championships later this summer, this year’s Volleyball Nations League is the final opportunity to explore the talents of players on the verge of a national team breakthrough before having to buckle-down with full-blown rosters for the run to Tokyo. Many countries, including China, have committed to this strategy, so expect ‘new names’ and ‘new faces’ to be the themes of this year’s ‘new tournament.’
Lang also sees it as an opportunity to learn about what the rest of the world is doing in volleyball.
“We want to have a better understanding of the present women’s volleyball world, to see how our opponents’ techniques have improved and how their newcomers play on court during this event. Moreover, we want to learn something from other three teams,” she added.