2018 FIVB Men’s Volleyball Nations League – Week 5, Pool 20
- June 22-24, 2018
- Pala Panini; Modena, Italy
- Time Zone: UTC + 2 (Eastern Time +6)
- World Rankings: No. 2 USA, No. 4 Russia, No. 4 Italy, No. 9 France
With the top three teams in the VNL standings plus seventh place Italy in Pool 20, it could be considered the group of death in terms of toughness.
France is on a six-match win streak, while the Americans and Russians have each won their last five. Italy went 2-1 last weekend in South Korea, dropping its final match 3-1 against Australia.
France is into the Final Six as the host team, so it is safe regardless of the results. The USA is 10-2 (29 points) with Russia right on its heels at 9-3 (28 points). Both should be safely in to the Final Six by virtue of having eight or more victories and three teams below them in the current top six, but will punch their ticket with a victory of three or four sets (3 points). Seedings also are at stake.
Italy has an uphill battle due to the competition, but is within striking distance of the top six in seventh place (7-5, 21 points), just a few points and one win behind Brazil (4th, 8-4, 24 points), Poland (5th, 8-4, 23 points) and Serbia (6th, 8-4, 20 points). The Italians will have a hefty home crowd on its side.
|Date||Local Time||Eastern Time (USA)||Home||Visitor|
|June 22.||5:30 p.m.||11:30 a.m.||USA||France|
|June 22.||8:30 p.m.||2:30 p.m.||Italy||Russia|
|June 23.||5:30 p.m.||11:30 a.m.||USA||Russia|
|June 23.||8:30 p.m.||2:30 p.m.||Italy||France|
|June 24.||5:30 p.m.||11:30 a.m.||France||Russia|
|June 24.||8:30 p.m.||2:30 p.m.||Italy||USA|
With just France having punched its ticket to the VNL Final Six, by virtue of acting as the host nation, the race is still wide open. Nine points are available per team with three matches left. As it stands, it will take at least eight wins to earn a Final Six berth, leaving 12 teams in play, although several would need help to break through due to the points tallies.
Brazil, Poland and Serbia are in the most precarious positions among the current Top 6 with 24, 23 and 20 points respectively. Italy is just one match out at 7-5 with 21 points in its pocket. Canada sits in eighth at 6-6, but boast 18 points. Italy must win at least one match to stay in it and hope for help from Brazilian, Polish and Serbian losses.
All four teams are among the FIVB Top 10, including three among the Top 5. All four teams are among the VNL top seven with a legitimate shot at the Final Six. It will be interesting to see what lineups teams utilize if and when they secure their spots in the finals, especially with Italy waiting in the wings.
In addition to the top teams, the pool also features some of the best players in the competition. Russia boasts two of the top five scorers in VNL play in Dmitry Muserskiy (173) and Egor Kliuka (155). Muserskiy is tops in kill efficiency at 67.33 percent, while France’s Stephen Boyer (53.57%), Italy’s Ivan Zaytsev (53.44%) and USA’s Matt Anderson (52.88%) are right behind. Russia also includes two of the top five blockers in Muserskiy (2nd, 0.61 per set) and Ilya Vlasov (5th, 0.54).
Stories/Players to Watch
- Russia: While Muserskiy and Kliuka have top scored for Russia, Romanas Shkulyavichus stepped into the spotlight on Week 4. Keep an eye out for the opposite to step up especially as opponents key their block on the other two.
- Italy: Opposite Ivan Zaytsev and setter Simone Gianelli will be back in the fold for Week 5, but the team will be without the services of Osmany Juantorena for the second straight week. Starting libero Massimo Colaci also is back in the lineup to bolster the team’s hopes of a push for the Final Six. Without Zaytsev and Juantorena, Gabriele Maruotti, Simone Anzani and Gabriele Nelli paced the team on Week 4, giving depth that could be key in tough matches.
- USA: Recent BYU grad Brenden Sander makes his national team roster debut this week after the loss of Thomas Jaeschke to injury in Chicago. It is unknown if Sander will see the court as TJ DeFalco stepped into Jaeschke’s spot in the lineup last week.
- France: The French took the opportunity to rest various players including top scorer Stephen Boyer as well as Julien Lyneel, Earvin Ngapeth, Jean Patry and Kevin Tillie, during Week 4 matches. Since the team is already in the Final Six as the host, the team may opt to utilize its depth once again to have more players fresh for the finals.