Poland (POL) vs. Japan (JPN) women - Pool 1 - Preliminary Phase #15690130

Magdalena Stysiak

Poland finished the first Volleyball Nations League 2024 competition week on top of the current standings on an impeccable record of four wins and a 12-0 set ratio. On Sunday in Antalya, their star striker Magdalena Stysiak led them to a sweep of their encounter with Japan. It was the Asian team’s first defeat of the season and they are currently sixth in the table on a 3-1 win-loss record and 8 points.

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The score of 3-0 (26-24, 25-20, 25-23) Poland’s way cost Japan as many as 8.59 points for the FIVB World Ranking, but they kept their eighth position in the chart and within the qualifying zone for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Opposite Stysiak produced a match-high 22 points towards Poland’s victory. Her tally included one ace and as many as five kill blocks, the scoring element that made the biggest difference in the match, with 12 stuffs for the winners and only four for Japan. Outside hitter Martyna Lukasik scored another 11 points for Poland. So did opposite Kotona Hayashi for Japan, while outside Mayu Ishikawa was Japan’s most prolific player with 14 points to her name.

Japan were well in control through most of the first set and when at 23-18 it looked like Poland were about to lose their first set of the competition, the Europeans went ahead and scored six points in a row to reach their first set point of the match. Moments later, Natalia Medrzyk crowned her great performance in the set with a monster block to close the set at 26-24 Poland’s way. Japan stepped in front in the second set again and opened a three-point gap. With Stysiak now on fire, this time Poland turned things around much earlier in the set. After 16-16, they took control of the scoreboard for good. At the end, a speedy first-tempo attack by Kamila Witkowska was left without a block and brought in the 25-20 set winner. The third set was more competitive, with Stysiak and Ishikawa racing each other on the scoreboard. At Poland’s second match point, Stysiak took the upper hand with a block-out swing that fixed the 25-23 set score and another straight-set match victory for the European side.

Poland (POL) vs. Japan (JPN) women - Pool 1 - Preliminary Phase #15690132

Kamila Witkowska celebrates

“When our offence is doing great, we are getting momentum and playing very well, but we have to improve the process of getting to a good offence,” Japan’s libero Manami Kojima commented after the game. “Poland have a really great offence, so it was very important for us to dig well and transition well in order to score points.”

“We are so happy. The matches were difficult for sure, but I think we developed our game and played much better from match to match. Especially at the end of the sets, we can do what we have to do to win the game. So I am really happy and proud of this team,” said Poland’s libero Aleksandra Szczyglowska. “Japan are a really good team, especially in defence. That was the hard part, but when you calm your mind you can know easily what they are going to do.”

Poland (POL) vs. Japan (JPN) women - Pool 1 - Preliminary Phase #15690135

Manami Kojima in defence

For the second competition week, Poland will travel to Arlington, USA, where they will start against Serbia on May 28 at 16:00 local time (21:00 UTC). Japan will head to Macao, China and get their second week underway against Brazil, also on May 28, at 19:30 local time (11:30 UTC).

Netherlands leave Antalya on high note

Earlier on Sunday, the Netherlands got back on the winning track with a 3-1 (25-21, 21-25, 25-23, 25-20) victory over Germany and regained 4.48 of the World Ranking points lost earlier this week in the race for Paris 2024. They are still about four points behind Canada, however, and below the cut-off for the Olympics. 20-year-old opposite Elles Dambrink led the way with 20 points. Another three Dutch players reached the double digits - Nova Marring with 15, Juliet Lohuis with 13 (three aces and six kill blocks!), and Marrit Jasper with 13. On Germany’s side, opposite Kimberly Drewniok was the best scorer with 17 points, followed by Lena Stigrot with 15, Lina Alsmeier with 14 and Camilla Weitzel with 13. The Netherlands are now eighth in the current VNL standings on 2-2 and 6, while Germany are 11th on 1-3 and 3.

This week’s VNL programme in Antalya will finish with Sunday’s last game, between France and Türkiye at 20:00 local time (17:00 UTC). Sunday’s competition day in Rio de Janeiro’s Pool 2 has also started with Brazil shutting out Serbia, and will continue with USA v Dominican Republic at 14:00 local time (17:00 UTC) and Thailand v Korea at 17:30 (20:30).

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