Preliminary Round of World Grand Prix has just ended, so it’s time for further summary. Who advanced to Final Six? Which players where the best? It’s time to recognize them!
RANKING AFTER PRELIMINARY ROUND:
1. China (25 points, 9 wins/0 losses) – Qualified to Final Six
China won all their games, but only more serious opponents were Serbia and Turkey. Chinese players didn’t fight with top teams like Brazil, USA or Japan. Top player was opposite/outside hitter Ting Zhu. Good job did also middle blockers: Yunli Xu, Junjing Yang and Yunwen Ma. Roster for Final Six can be mystery because coach Lang Ping used all 22 players.
2. Brazil (23 points, 8 wins/1 loss) – Qualified to Final Six
Team won all games in the hardest pool in home, but week later lost with Bulgaria and had obstacles with Dominican Republic. Leading player was outside hitter Fernanda Garay, important link was also setter Dani Lins. Since second weekend more play time got libero Fabi and middle blockers Fabiana Claudino and Thaisa Menezes.
3. Serbia (23 points, 7 wins/2 losses) – Qualified to Final Six
Only tough teams for Serbia in Preliminary Round were China and USA. With both of them Serbia lost in tiebreaks, but girls were determined. Three imporant scorers are opposite Jovana Brakocevic, outside hitter Brankica Mihajlovic and middle blocker Milena Rasic. Good balls set Maja Ognjenovic, team captain. What proved match against China, their substitutes aren’t much worse than starters.
4. United States (22 points, 8 wins/1 loss) – Qualified to Final Six
Team with new roster and new coach lost only with Brazil. They beat good teams like Japan, Serbia, Russia. Impressive players are opposite Kelly Murphy, outside hitter Kim Hill, setter Alisha Glass, libero Tamari Miyashiro. New players have good potential and some of them after return of main players like Hooker, Larson, Hodge or Akinradewo may find place in roster for World Championships in Italy.
5. Italy (21 points, 7 wins/2 losses) – Qualified to Final Round
Team coached by Marco Mencarelli had easy schedule. More demanding for them were only Turkey, Germany and Russia. What is surprising, Italy except Russia lost only with Dominican Republic. Good performance had opposite Valentina Diouf. Promising talent is outside hitter Caterina Bosetti. Italy in Final Six will be with the best team, libero Monica De Gennaro fortunately isn’t serious injured.
6. Japan (19 points, 7 wins/2 losses) – Host of Final Six
First two weekends by Japanese players were really good, beating Turkey and Germany (only more demanding teams). Then team came back home and played worse. They lost with USA and Bulgaria and had big problems against Czech Republic, though their achieved victory. Main links there are outside hitters Saori Kimura, Yukiko Ebata. Great defender is libero Kotoki Zayasu.
Teams Not Qualified To Final six:
7. Russia (19 points, 7 wins/2 losses)
After not so good first weekend, “Sborna” couldn’t decrease behind to top teams. Probably tiebreaks with Poland, Thailand and Germany stole chances for Final Six. Key player is opposite Natalya Obmochaeva, getting back to good shape is outside hitter Tatiana Kosheleva. Good middle blocker is Irina Zaryazhko, unfortuantely during match against Thailand she injured her ankle and she’s out for three weeks. It means that she’s probably out of EuroVolley.
8. Turkey (19 points, 6 wins/3 losses)
Team played good tournament, but it wasn’t enough for top teams: Italy, China and Japan. Because of this they’re out. Important player is still opposite Neslihan Darnel, but she’s too much exploited and might get serious health problems. Good job did outside hitters, mostly Gozde Sonsirma and Seda Tokatioglu. Nice setter is Naz Aydemir. Weak points are middle blockers.
9. Bulgaria (19 points, 6 wins/3 losses).
For me the biggest surprise “in plus”. I was too ignorant to place this team among teams that can mess up, they should be there instead of Poland or Czech Republic. They beat Brazil and Japan, close was win with USA which could have given place in Final Six. Many Bulgarians players gave good impression, mostly outside hitters Dobriana Rabdzhieva, Elitsa Vasilieva, setter Lora Kitipova and middle blocker Strashimira Filipova. Their weakest point for me is libero Mariya Filipova.
10. Dominican Republic (17 points, 6 wins/3 losses)
Team was unpredictable, but made few positive surprises. We saw it in this weekend, they beat Italy and almost did it with Turkey. Earlier they defeated also Bulgaria in good shape. For me Dominicans played too chaotic and their coach Marcos Kwiek was many times undecided. Changing line-up too often isn’t good for team at all. Main links here are libero Brenda Castillo and outside hitters Bethania De La Cruz and Prisilla Rivera. Last times appeared rumours than coach can be changed.
11. Germany (16 points, 4 wins/5 losses)
First weekend wasn’t good performance, second was better and the third one worse again. After two good sets German lost matches against Russia and Japan. The biggest and embarassing surpirse were losses against Puerto Rico and Argentina. Team relies too much on opposite Margareta Kozuch, weak point are definitely their outside hitters. None from group Heike Beier, Maren Brinker, Jennifer Geerties isn’t stable and Lisa Izquierdo didn’t get many chances.
12. Netherlands (12 points, 4 wins/5 losses)
“Oranje” with changed coach and roster couldn’t do much. They beat only Kazakhstan, Algeria and Cuba twice. Weak points there are lack of good second outside hitter and strong spiking opposite. Best players there were middle blocker Robin De Kruijf and outside hitter Anne Buijs.
13. Thailand (10 points, 3 wins/6 losses)
This team certainly is a disappointment. Wins only against Algeria, cuba and Puerto Rico. Roster is almost the same, especially starting line-up , but their perofrmance was worse than in previous years. Main spiker here is outside hitter Onuma Sittirak. Other players didn’t give good impression this time.
14. Czech Republic (8 points, 2 wins/7 losses)
Debut in Grand Prix could be better, but it wasn’t so worse neither. Team fought at least, but they need good outside hitter as replacement for injured Helena Havelkova. Best player here is opposite Aneta Havlickova, promising is outside hitter Michaela Mlejnkova.
15. Poland (6 points, 2 wins/7 losses)
I expected more from team coached by Piotr Makowski. Poles’ game was chaotic many times, there were many changes in roster and we had two ideas on line-up. Definitely star of team is opposite, who was tried also as outside hitter, Katarzyna Skowrońska-Dolata. Unfortunately thier teammates weren’t so impressive. Potential have middle blocker Agnieszka Kąkolewska and libero Dorota Medyńska. Not bad was middle blocker Zuzanna Efimienko. But it’s the end of pluses, reception was horrible, there is lack of good passing outisde hitter like Anna Werblińska. Missed is also setter Katarzyna Skorupa, starter Milena Radecka shouldn’t be called setter at all! Team won only with weak Argentina and Kazakhstan.
16. Argentina (5 points, 2 wins/7 losses)
“Albicelestes” didn’t perform well again. Their play can be better, but players here are too unstable. The best from them is middle blocker Emilce Sosa, not bad was setter Yael Castiglione. Argentina won with Kazakhstan and Germany, they got one point also from Poland.
17. Kazakhstan (4 points, 1 win/8 losses)
Team again like in previous Grand Prix editions had nothing to say. They defeated only weak Cuba and had tiebreak against Argentina. Best player was their opposite Tatyana Mudritskaya and I wonder why she didn’t play in Almaty in last weekend.
18. Puerto Rico (2 points, 1 win/8 losses).
This is next weak team however they beated Germany after tiebreak. Puertoricans are without their best players: setter Vilmarie Mojica, outside hitter Aurea Cruz, opposite Sarai Alvarez and middle bocker Alexandra Oquendo. Maybe with them play could look different, I wonder if they want to come back or just coach Rafael Olazagasti didn’t call them or they wuthdrew from NT.
19. Cuba (0 points, 0 wins/9 losses)
After next escapes team is even more weak. Hope gives youngster, opposite Melissa Vargas. Now she commits too much errors, but can be strong weapon fo future. Good were also outside hitter Yoana Palacio and middle blocker Rosana Giel, but with new setters they couldn’t show better performance.
20. Algeria (0 points, 0 wins/9 losses)
Well, I have no comments for FIVB decisions. This team proved thast they didn’t deserve for an opportunity to play here. Better would be Korea, Peru or even Canada in place of Algeria.
Best players after Group Stages according to stats:
Best Scorer: Natalya Obmochaeva (Russia)
Best Spiker: Risa Shinnabe (Japan)
Best Blocker: Robin De Kruijf (Netherlands)
Best Server: Neslihan Darnel (Turkey)
Best Digger: Brenda Castillo (Dominican Republic)
Best Receiver: Dobriana Rabadzhieva (Bulgaria)
Best Setter: Nootsara Tomkom (Thailand)
Best team of Group Stage:
Disappointing team of Group Stage: