Brankica Mihajlovic (centre) led Serbia to victories against Turkey, Brazil and Belgium in the opening weekend of the 2017 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix.
Lausanne, Switzerland, July 11, 2017 - With three matches and three straight-set wins including a victory over defending champions Brazil, Serbia were the outstanding team on the opening weekend of the 2017 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix.
And it was Brankica Mihajlovic who topped the scoring lists for the Olympic silver medallists in all three matches. The 1.90-metre hitter scored 24 points in a commanding victory over Brazil, and racked up an impressive 58 points in the opening three matches.
World champions USA, however, are also unbeaten after the first three matches. With 19 points to her name, Kelly Murphy was the outstanding player in her team’s victory over Olympic champions China.
The rejuvenated Brazilian team are still searching for their next big star. Rosamaria Montibeller and Tandara Caixeta both contributed 20 points to their team’s 3-2 win against hosts Turkey. Captain Natalia Pereira was particularly disappointed with her own performance: “I think we did not play well, especially me. I know I need to play better.”
One of the positive surprises on the opening weekend came from the Dominican Republic. Promoted to Group 1 this year, two victories mean they can hope to progress to the final round.
The stars in the team are well-established: Bethania de la Cruz scored 21 points in the 3-1 victory over Japan, while Annerys Victoria Vargas Valdez and Brayelin Elizabeth Martinez both contributed 21 points in the win over Thailand.
Japan on the other hand can count on top scorer Sarina Koga, who racked up 23 points in the five-set victory over Thailand and 22 in the tie-break thriller against hosts the Netherlands. Kumi Nakada, coach of Japan: “The past is the past, we are here to build new history.”
In Group 2, two teams have the maximum nine points to their name after the opening weekend: Poland and the Czech Republic.
The top scorers for the Poles in their 3-0 defeat of hosts Argentina were Malwina Smarzek with 15 points and Berenika Tomsia (14). Tomsia had a special reason to be so pleased with her impressive display: “I felt really comfortable playing here in Argentina. I have relatives in Buenos Aires and I would like to salute them. Fans here are spectacular, the atmosphere at the stadium was perfect. I really enjoyed playing here.”
Michaela Mlejnkova and Veronika Struskova both scored 15 points to help the Czech Republic overcome Peru 3-1. They were overshadowed by Peruvian star Angela Leyva, however, who was the stand-out performer with 24 points
In Group 3, two newcomers dominated proceedings with three wins from three matches: Hungary and France. The star for the Hungarians was Gréta Szakmáry, who was her team’s top scorer in all three matches and racked up 47 points in total.
On the same weekend that the French men’s team celebrated success in the FIVB Volleyball World League Finals in Curitiba, Brazil, the French women showed that they too are on the up. One of the most important players in the team was Alexandra Dascalu, who contributed 23 points to the 3-2 victory over Venezuela. Juliette Fidon was the top scorer with 15 points in the 3-1 win against hosts Cameroon. Quick links - Volleyball:
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France’s coach Felix Andre drew parallels with two global stars: “Our match against Cameroon was like the George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali fight.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s Rachel Rourke produced a particularly powerful performance in Group 3. Of her 25 points in the 3-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago, a record eleven were aces.