FIVB Men’s Volleyball Nations League
- May 25-July 8, 2018
- Lille, France
- World Rankings: #3 Russia, #9 France
Home court advantage was not enough to lift France to the inaugural Volleyball Nations League title as the team fell to Russia via sweep to finish in the runnerup spot on Sunday.
Russia won the match 25-22, 25-20, 25-23, avenging a 3-0 loss in the final match of Pool 20 and claiming the country its first world level gold since the 2013 World League tournament.
The Russians bested the French in kills (41-39), blocks (11-5) and aces (6-3). France earned one more point on errors (18-17).
Maxim Mikhailov was the star for the Russians , posting a match-high 19 points on 14 kills, three aces and two blocks. Dmitriy Muserskiy (12), Egor Kliuka (10) and Dmitry Volkov (9) rounded out the top scorers, each turning in two blocks. Muserskiy also tacked on nine putaways and an ace, while Kliuka and Volkov notched seven kills apiece.
Earvin Ngapeth gave it his all for the French, tallying 16 points on 14 kills, a block and an ace. His nearest help, however, came from Kevin LeRoux (8) and Stephen Boyer (7). Leroux served up a team-best two aces and added a team-high two blocks to his four kill tally. Boyer scored all seven of his points on putaways. Thibault Rossard and Jean Patry surprisingly played sparingly, each coming into the match in Set 2. Rossard added five points, all on kills and Patry scored four putaways.
MATCH POINT!! It's a monster block by #3 Dmitry Kovalev and Russia 🇷🇺 @VolleyRus win the #VNL, completing a 3-0 win over France 🇫🇷 @FFvolley to claim the 🥇! #BePartOfTheGame #volleyball pic.twitter.com/XVFFe5Lc02
— Volleyball World (@FIVBVolleyball) July 8, 2018
Russia took the lead early in both sets 1 and 2 and despite stumbling down the stretch, was able to hold on victories of 25-22 and 25-20. The Russians led by as many as seven in the opening stanza. Mikhailov and Volkov paced the team in Set 2 as it held the French at bay.
The teams were back and forth in Set 3 but found themselves tied at 20 as the end neared. Ngapeth and Boyer battled Mikhailov and Muserskiy as the teams found themselves level at 23. A block by Kovalev closed out the 25-23 win and sewed up the gold medal for the Russians.
The French, which led the field at 12-3 after preliminary round action, moved past Brazil (3-2) and Serbia (3-0) in Pool A play and edged past the United States in tiebreak on Saturday (3-2), to set up a final meeting with Russia with the gold medal on the line.
France came into the event after earning gold medals at the 2015 and 2017 World League events and a ninth-place effort at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Russia, meanwhile, was ranked second after the round robin phase of the VNL play at 11-4 after falling to the French in the final Pool 20 match via sweep. Once in the Final Six, the Russians bested Poland in four sets and the Americans via sweep, setting up a semifinal meeting with Brazil. A sweep set up the rematch with France for all of the marbles.
Russia, which won gold at the 2012 Olympics in London, were looking for their best world level finish since winning gold at the 2013 World League event. The Russians also won gold at the 2017 European Championships.