Dutch National Team captain Maret Balkestein-Grothues has found her new home a month after leaving Poland’s Chemik Police club amidst a contract dispute. Balkestein-Grothues has signed to play with Casalmaggiore in Italy’s top league.
Balestein-Grothues left Chemik Police after a dispute over a contract that the two sides agreed to in June when it became clear that she and the club could not reconcile their differences. She now becomes the second major addition in the January transfer window for the Italian club that won its first and only league title in 2015 before placing 3rd last year.
The season began in a rough way for Casalmaggiore – they parted ways with world-class setter Carli Lloyd, who wound up in Turkey before shoulder surgery cancelled those plans too (she’s now playing in Brazil). They added a nice piece in the off-season in beach star Sarah Pavan, but in December she too announced her departure, returning to the sand to start an earlier-than-normal FIVB World Tour season. They also lost Chinese player Chunlei Zeng in November – one of the few members of the Chinese Olympic gold medal winning team to play outside of the domestic league.
That left Casalmaggiore both with a big offensive hole to fill, as well as money to spend.
Besides last week’s announcement that they’d bring in rising American hitter Annie Drews on a trial basis, the results of which have not yet been announced, volleyball.it is reporting that Grothues has arrived with the club to help fill that hole.
The 5’11”, 29-year old outside hitter (wing spiker) led the Dutch team to a bronze medal at the 2016 World Grand Prix. She has one of the more diverse resumes in women’s volleyball, having played professionally with 4 clubs in the Netherlands, 3 clubs in Italy, France, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and on two separate occasions in Poland. She spent last season with Fenerbahce as they were crowned champions of both the Turkish Cup and Turkish League.
Individually, she was named the ‘best server’ of the 2010 FIVB World Championships.
Casalmaggiore currently ranks just 9th out of 12 teams in the top flight of Italian volleyball with 14 points (3 wins, 11 losses). They were able to pick up a win last week, the 2nd round of the back-half of the Italian season, 3-1 over Savino Del Bene Scandicci – currently the 3rd-place team in the league. They next place on Wednesday, January 17th, against Monza. Grothues began training with the club on January 2nd, and while she was on the bench in the team’s loss on Sunday, she didn’t participate in the game.