Olympic champs China started strong into the 32nd edition of the Montreux Volley Masters
Montreux, Switzerland, June 6, 2017- Volleyball fans who flocked to the Swiss Riviera for the long-awaited opening day of the 2017 Montreux Volley Masters were not to be left disappointed, as the tournament favourites treated them to a stylish display. There were huge opening victories for 2016 champions and Olympic gold medallists China, Brazil, while Montreux-Masters debutants Argentina stunned The Netherlands.
Expectations were high after a thrilling Montreux Volley Masters last year, and holders China picked up where they left off 12 months ago, turning on the style to see off host nation Switzerland in straight sets (25-15, 25-16, 25-16). Despite Chinese coach An Jiajie naming largely young side for this year’s tournament compared to the squad that took gold under Lang Ping last year, it was the experienced figureheads in the team, Olympic gold medallists Liu Xiaotong, Gong Xiangyu and Li Jing who took charge, the latter two racking up 23 points between themselves to get their title defence off to the ideal start in Pool A.
With the benchmark set, the action moved over to Pool B as Brazil, hoping to better their 5th place finish in 2016, took on Poland. Momentum constantly shifted between the sides amidst a show of heart-stopping rallies, sensational blocking, and lethal spiking on display for all in attendance. Brazilian veteran Tandara Caixeta was the player at the heart of the Poles’ torment, her 21-points helping her side to a 3-1 (25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 26-24) triumph in an entertaining four-set affair.
The late fixture saw the Netherlands, who narrowly missed out on a podium finish last year, take on Montreux debutants Argentina, and it was the South Americans who eventually came out on top in a five-set classic to clinch victory in their first ever appearance at the tournament. Having raced into a two-set lead with victory in their grasp, the Argentines were very nearly denied their dream start, Celeste Plak the catalyst as the Oranje won the following two sets to force a tiebreak. But Paula Nizetich, Lucia Fresco and Emilce Sosa’s 55-point haul proved enough to see out the tie and record a historic 3-2 victory (25-22, 27-25, 14-25, 23-25, 15-19).
It has been an enthralling opening day of the 2017 Montreux Volley Masters, and there is every indication that it will live up to or even surpass the quality of last year’s tournament if these three matches are anything to go by. The action continues on Wednesday at 16:30 CET, where Poland will look to bounce back against 2016 runners-up Thailand in Pool B. Opening day victors China will look to consolidate their strong start as they face the Dutch in Pool A at 18:45 CET, before the 21:15 CET fixture sees returning 2014 champions Germany do battle with Brazil. With two teams still to be seen, and many more mouth-watering fixtures yet to be played, there is every indication that the best is yet to come at this most prestigious of invitational tournaments.