The FIVB Women’s Volleyball Nations League (VNL) – Macao 2018, organized by the Sports Bureau of Macao SAR Government and the Volleyball Association of Macao, China, and presented by Galaxy Entertainment Group (GEG), kicks off today (22 May) at the Macao Forum. Serbia got off to a good start with a 3-1 victory over Thailand (25-18, 25-23, 19-25, 25-19), while Poland defeated reigning Olympic champions China in a thrilling five-setter (18-25, 25-17, 25-18, 22-25, 15-12).
The Serbian side used its significant height advantage to control the net throughout the opening set. The Serb attack encountered little resistance from the Thai block, allowing the Serbian players to score almost at will. Serbia led throughout the set and cruised to a 25-18 win.
The second set started much differently with Thailand taking an early 8-5 lead and then extending that lead to 16-9 at the second technical timeout. Credit for this goes to the Thai attackers who did a much better job of avoiding the Serbian block. The Serbian back row struggled throughout the set too, which allowed Thailand to lead for most of the set. With Thailand leading 21-16, the Serbs turned things around with some outstanding play and quickly tied the game at 22-22. Serbia won the last three rallies to close out the set 25-23.
Set three was a much tighter affair with neither team taking more than a two point lead until Thailand pulled ahead 14-11. The Thai hitters used a number of off-speed attacks that gave the Serbian defenders trouble, allowing Thailand to jump out to a 19-12 lead. There was no collapse this time as Thailand closed out the set 25-19.
Serbia asserted itself early in set four, jumping out to a 6-2 lead due to more strong play at the net. Thailand battled back to tie the match at 8-8, prompting the Serbian coach to substitute captain Brankica Mihajlovic out of the game. That move paid off as Serbia charged ahead to a 17-12 lead. Thailand was not done though and battled back with some creative offense of their own, bringing them to within one point of the Serbians. The Serb’s regained their composure and extended their lead again, closing out the match with a superb spike from Tijana Boskovic.
Tijana Boskovic led Serbia’s attack with 30 point, including 27 spikes, 2 blocks and an ace.
China v Poland started off as a back and forth affair early on in set one, with neither team having a significant lead until China pulled ahead 16-11 at the second technical timeout. Credit goes to setter Ding Xia who distributed the ball exceptionally well, keeping the Polish blockers off balance throughout the set. China’s lead was not threatened and the team closed out the set 25-18.
Set two saw Poland jump out to a 14-9 lead due to a much improved block. The Chinese team did not help matters as they struggled on serve receive, forcing coach Lang Ping to replace captain Liu Xiatong in the back row at one point. The Polish team kept its lead for the remainder of the set winning 25-17.
The Polish team continued its effective play to start the third set, charging out to an 8-4 lead at the first technical timeout. China could not find any rhythm and continued to struggle after the break as Poland opened up a ten point lead at the second technical timeout. China replaced its setter after the break and while it did create a bit of a spark it was too little too late as Poland took the set 25-18.
The fourth set was a battle as neither team could manage more than a two-point lead early on. China broke that trend when it pulled ahead 23-19 via an outstanding attack from Gong Xiangyu. The Polish did not quit and fought back to trail the Chinese by just one point. The Chinese regained their composure and took the final two points to win the set 25-22.
Poland came out strong in set five, going up 3-0 and forcing the Chinese to take an early timeout. China regrouped after the break and took its first lead at 6-5. The Polish team responded with some inspired play of its own and regained a three point lead at 12-9. From that point forward the teams traded points until Poland closed out the set 15-12.
Malwina Smarzek led Poland with 29 spikes and 5 aces. Li Yingying led China with 19 spikes.
Serbia takes on Poland in tomorrow’s early match at 1730 while Thailand will play China in the evening match at 2000.
Tickets are in high demand and those for the final day are already sold out. A limited number of remaining tickets for tomorrow will be on sale at the Macao Forum. Tickets purchased online can be redeemed at the ticketing counter at the Macao Forum upon presentation of valid receipt and personal identification document, starting two hours before the first match commences.
In order to further enhance audience engagement during the competition, “My Favorite Galaxy Star Player and Team” competition will be hosted to offer spectators the chance to vote for their favorite player and team and to be in with an opportunity to win hotel accommodation as well as food and beverage prizes.