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With a young team, Italy overcame Croatia and Poland in Lanciano (Photo: FIPAV)

Reigning Volleyball Nations League champions Italy finalized their preparation for the 2023 edition of the event in a strong way as the Europeans dominated a preparation tournament held this week in Lanciano.

The Italians claimed 3-1 victories over VNL opponents Croatia and Canada in front of their home fans and gained some valuable match rhythm and confidence just a few days ahead of their trip to Antalya, Türkiye, where they will start their VNL campaign next week.

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Head coach Davide Mazzanti couldn’t count on most of the team’s key players, such as opposite Paola Egonu, libero Monica De Gennaro, setter Alessia Orro and outside hitter Myriam Sylla, who were playing with their clubs just a few days ago, but his team benefited from strong performances from some of its younger players to triumph in the tournament.

On Monday, against VNL debutants Croatia, outside hitters Alice Degradi and Francesca Villani led the VNL champions in their 3-1 (25-18, 25-21, 23-25, 25-19) victory with 12 and 11 points respectively.

On Tuesday, Mazzanti sent a different lineup to the court and the Nwakalor sisters Sylvia (opposite) and Linda (middle blocker), who got to play together in the national team for the first time, stole the show in the Italian 3-1 (25-21, 26-28, 25-22, 25-23) victory – the 23-year-old Sylvia led all scorers with 19 points, followed by the 20-year-old Linda, with 13.

“There’s obviously a lot still for us to improve, but I’m satisfied with the progress the team made from one match to the other,” Mazzanti commented. “We’ll finalize our preparation in a strong way, but I saw everyone very determined and motivated and I’m sure that if we can keep this attitude, we’ll have a good start at the VNL next week.”

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The Italians had a strong performance against Canada on Wednesday (Photo: FIPAV)

In the final match of the event, on Wednesday, Canada triumphed over Croatia also in four sets (25-21, 23-25, 25-21, 25-19). Croatian opposite Andrea Mihaljević was the match's top scorer with 17 points.

The Italians will depart for Antalya on Sunday and will debut in the VNL on Tuesday, May 30, at 17:00 local time (14:00 UTC), against Thailand. The defending champions will also face Poland, the United States and hosts Türkiye in the opening week of the event.

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