Montreux, Switzerland, September 4, 2018- The long-awaited curtain-raiser of the 2018 Montreux Volley Masters finally came to pass on Tuesday as the 33rd edition of the prestigious invitational showpiece got underway at Salle Omnisports du Pierrier, and it was an ideal start for some of the tournament favourites as China, Brazil & Turkey all registered opening victories.
Bronze Medal holders China made easy work of host-nation Switzerland in the opening match of this year’s tournament, sealing the points without surrendering a set in Pool A. World Number Four Brazil were given a somewhat trickier examination in Pool B, coming from behind to take the spoils against Number Five seed Russia, before renown coach Giovanni Guidetti masterminded a comprehensive win over his home country as his Turkey team dismantled Italy in Pool A in the final game of the day.
04.09.18. 16:30 CET: China 3:0 Switzerland (25-21, 25-14, 25-10)
Wing Spikers Liu Yanhan & Gong Xiangyu were the catalysts for Olympic gold medallists China alongside Middle Blocker Hu Mingyuan as An Jiajie’s side registered a convincing opening day victory over their Swiss hosts. The Chinese are not only looking to avenge the loss of their 2016 gold medal at this competition last year, but also to lay down a statement of intent ahead of the FIVB World Championships, and after negotiating a tricky opening set, they never looked back.
It was China’s impregnable defence at the net which slammed the door in the face of the hosts, Hu Mingyuan- elected best blocker of the tie- was the lynchpin with five blocks and a further seven spikes of her own as the best efforts of Laura Kunzler and Maja Storck were unable to grind down a stubborn Chinese resistance. That coupled with their panache in attack made them simply too hot for Switzerland to handle, skipper Liu Xiaotong helping exact the damage alongside the potent Gong Xiangyu and Liu Yanhan. The second and third sets were academic affairs in truth as the confidence of the hosts waned in the face of their more seasoned opponents, but the Swiss will benefit from the experience as they look to bounce back against the Italians. That won’t be before the Chinese have their own showdown with the Squadra Azzurra, however, as the Middle Kingdom outfit look to claim back-to-back victories and seal an early semi-final spot.
04.09.18. 18:45 CET: Brazil 3:1 Russia (24-26, 25-21, 25-21, 25-23)
José Roberto Guimaraes’ Brazil were forced to overcome a stern test of their credentials as defending champions as they were made to come from behind against the Sbornaya in a tempestuous contest. Opposite Nataliya Goncharova and Wing Spiker Ksenia Parubets were excellent for Vadim Pankov’s Russia as they edged a thrilling opening set, the former actually finishing as the game’s best attacker with an 18-point individual tally. But it was Brazilian Wing Spiker duo Gabriela ‘Gabi’ Braga Guimaraes (18 points) and Rosamaria Montibeller (16 points) who came up trumps for the South Americans, inspiring their team and leading by example as they seized control of the second set to restore parity before edging out the third and fourth to finally see off their spirited opponents. Experience eventually won the day over Russia’s youth, the Brazilians adapting their game to exploit the raw side of the Russians’ general play, with a string of individual errors proving costly for the Europeans, with cheap points surrendered from serving faults and basic reception errors following lapses in concentration (Russia’s total number of errors accumulated to 28), brutally exploited by the cunning of Setter, Danielle Lins, and the lively Rosamaria.
Winning the battle at the net also proved pivotal in Brazil’s success, and this was where Middle Blocker Thaisa Menezes, back at Montreux after being ruled out through injury last year, was able to exert her influence as Russia’s height and presence in the first set began to fade. Ana Carolina da Silva, Drussyla Costa and Fe Garay all put in bright performances as the game went on. Yet Russia can take heart from a spirited display, and look more than capable of righting the wrongs of this defeat against debutants Cameroon on Wednesday. Brazil, meanwhile, look ahead to a showdown with Poland and the opportunity to seal a semi-final berth with one group match to spare.
04.09.18. 21:15 CET: Italy 0:3 Turkey (18-25, 24-26, 21-26)
It was mercurial coach Giovanni Guidetti’s day in the late match-up as the Italian plotted a game-plan to brutally expose the frailties of his home country, and his Turkey team executed his instructions to perfection in a comprehensive victory to wrap up the action on the opening day.
Opposite Meryem Boz was the standout performer with a 12-point individual haul, but it was Turkey’s overall superiority in attack which eventually saw the game swing in their favour, with them clinching the tie despite making five more errors than their opponents (25 to Italy’s 20), but finishing up with a total spike tally superior by four (37 to Italy’s 33). This was all in spite of the best efforts of leading match scorer Paola Egonu, who notched 12 of Italy’s 33 points alone, following on from her impressive showing at the FIVB Grand Prix.
Despite a lack of registered points, the Middle Blocker duo of captain Eda Erdem Dundar and Zehra Gunes proved influential for the Turks in snuffing out Italian attacks and building their own attacking opportunities, from which Wing Spikers Hande Baladin and Meliha Ismailoglu profited. A telling factor in the game, however, was the inexperience in the ranks of both sides, which showed as the Italians committed a total of 20 errors across the tie, with Turkey making 25 in spite of their win.
This will undoubtedly be a factor which both coaches Mazzanti and Guidetti will be keen to improve on, with Italy gearing up for the ultimate test against World Number One seed China on Wednesday, whilst Turkey look forward to entertaining the same opponents a day later.