After 8 months of recovery, Natalia Zilio made her much awaited return to the hardwood. After being confirmed in the team in the tournament’s eve, she missed the team’s first three games before debuting against Kenya, as the team’s captain, scoring 12 points in 2 sets in the 3-0 win. She followed that performance with two sets and 6 points against Kazakhstan as well. This is thrilling news to fans, as Natalia is one of the best players in the world, and a combination of her and Fernanda Garay at the outside is perhaps the best tandem in the position in world volleyball.
Here is what she said of her return in an interview given to Globo.com:
“When coach said I would finally play, I was like ‘Oh, my God.’ But I was not as nervous as I thought I was going to be. The girls helped me a lot and the inside the court also helped. It was not a game as difficult as the other games, it helped us to be calmer. But for me, it was like it was a championship final. Coming back after all this time is not easy. I know I have a lot of things to improve.
I’m very happy. I’m ready. The most important thing of all is to be able to see that I will be able to help the team more in the second round. The games are starting to get tougher. I’ve been seven, eight months without playing. It’s good to be back. I missed playing. I took good care of my physical fitness though. So let’s go, I’m ready for the next one.”
Needless to say, coach José Roberto Guimarães was livid with his star player’ return:
“That was the most fundamental thing today. We were hoping she could play. And it was great to see what she could do, the way she behaved. We know she’s coming back, but the pace she’s shown in training, the way she’s faced her challenge, very earnestly in recovery, very hard, makes us happy. Seeing Natalia back attacking, defending, moving, is a cause of great happiness for all of us. We know that we can count on her.”
The whole Brazilian volleyball community will now hold their breath and hope that Natalia can find her rhythm fast. The 2x Grand Prix MVP and Olympic gold medalist is Brazil’s best hope at a podium finish.
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