Two weeks into the FIVB Grand Prix and the Netherlands, the 7th ranked team in the world under the direction of first year coach Jamie Morrison, has proven to be a dominant force in the tournament. Following a sweep of a hot Russian squad, Morrison offered up high praise for his team that is ranked 5th in the world. “The team gets better every single match, this match was the best one”, Morrison said. The Dutch had finished the first week at 2-1 after defeating both the Dominican Republic and Thailand in straight sets, before losing a tough match to Japan 3-2 collecting 7 points. Following the loss, Morrison lamented that his team needed rest after a long weekend. “We are a little tired, but tomorrow (is) a day off so everybody has the chance to reload again.”
And reload they did. Coming into their match against the Russians, the Dutch squad was 2-0, defeating Belgium in straight sets, and pulling out a 5 set win over the Dominican Republic. Although Russia had struggled in the first week of the Grand Prix, they had entered the match winning their first 2 matches of Week 2. However, this proved to be a mismatch as the Netherlands steamrolled the world’s 5th ranked team in straight sets by the scores of 25-18, 25-22, 25-16. The Dutch team was dominant on the defensive side of the ball, accumulating 21 team digs and 7 team blocks. In addition, they also applied constant pressure from the service line with 5 team aces.
The Dutch displayed their dominance over the Russians with a strong balance of scoring. Celeste Plak led the way with 16 points, while Anne Buijs scored 15 points and Maret Balkerstein-Grothues chipped in 14 points. This marked only the second time all tournament that the Dutch have had 3 seperate players collect at least 14 points each in a match. The other time came in the 5 set loss to Japan to end Week 1 play. “I’m proud and happy for my team,” Morrison said. “Our goal is to improve every single day.”
Entering week 3, the Netherlands is tied for the top spot in the tournament with Serbia. They have a chance to finish in strong standing as they end preliminary round play in Cuiaba, Brazil facing the United States, Brazil and Belgium.