2017 FIVB World League
26-year old outside hitter Earvin N’Gapeth will return to the French side in the 3rd round of Group 1 action this weekend when France plays in Antwerp, Belgium.
The team, now playing with ‘house money’ after having secured qualification for the Final 6 already last weekend, is undefeated and have earned a perfect 18 points so far through 6 matches, even playing without N’Gapeth in each of those first two weekends. He is on the team’s expanded World League roster, however, and so is eligible to play – and according to his coach will do so this weekend in Antwerp.
This becomes a delicate situation for French head coach Laurent Tillies now, as in N’Gapeth’s absence, Stephen Boyer blossomed into a superstar. He leads Group 1 through 2 rounds with 106 points in 6 matches, including scoring on 61.5% of his swings against Russia. Boyer wasn’t even on last year’s Olympic roster, but now has become a focal point of their offense.
For France to feel confident about their continued success when the Final 6 rolls around, however, they will need N’Gapeth in the side, as several other teams are expected to have superstars re-join their rosters for Curitaba. So Lyneel will have to reintroduce N’Gapeth into the side without upsetting the chemistry that this team has built through 2 weeks of success.
N’Gapeth, who last season signed an extension to remain with Italian side Modena until 2020, has played on France’s senior National Team since 2010. Individually, he was named the MVP and Best Outside Hitter of the 2015 FIVB World League where France won gold. He was also 2016’s European Confederation Most Spectacular Player.
While the coach didn’t say specifically from what N’Gapeth is recovering, his return should be an emotional boost for the team, who in their last match against the United States lost middle blocker Kevin Le Roux