Poles, Italians stay unbeaten


WORLD No. 1 Poland clobbered Brazil to break free from a crowded middle pack and streaking Italy made short work of Slovenia to catch the leaders in the crucial Week 3 of the Volleyball Nations League (VNL) men’s tournament Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The Poles’ 25-23, 22-25, 25-21, 25-21 victory over the Brazilians proved their stature as the today’s top-ranked spikers—disposing of their formidable foes in under two hours to claim solo third spot at 8-2 won-lost behind leaders Japan and the United States.

Poland on Wednesday pulled off a 29-31, 21-25, 25-20, 25-20, 15-13 comeback win against Slovenia to stay unbeaten in the Philippine leg of the VNL, organized by the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) and the Volleyball World with Ganten, Gerflor, Mikasa, Mizuno, Senoh and Stake.com as global sponsors.

The Italians, on the other hand, handily beat the Slovenians, 25-13, 25-22, 25-17, to catch the leaders, rolling past their opponents who posed little resistance to stay unblemished in the VNL deciding preliminary leg here.

Italy, with Yuri Romano again leading the onslaught, bumped off the first-game winner Poland for third place in the tight standings just behind Japan and the United States.

The world No. 3 team improved to 8-3 won-lost with 23 set points to overtake Poland, which scored a 25-23, 22-25, 25-21, 25-21 win over powerhouse Brazil for an 8-2 card but with only 19 points.

Romano, the 6-foot-6 opposite spiker, drained 16 points on 11 attacks, three service aces and two blocks as Italy finished off the world No. 8 Slovenia in only one hour and 20 minutes.

“It’s a very good game and a very good performance for us. We won three matches so far and we want to win another one,” said Romano as Italy braces for a gigantic collision with unbeaten Japan on Saturday. “It will be the most difficult match for us, especially against Japan, who have won all their matches so far.”

Alessandro Michieletto and Daniele Lavia produced 13 points apiece to provide coverage for Romano as team captain Simone Giannelli had 18 sets for Italy, which slammed the door down on the usually potent Slovenian offense.

Klemen Cebulj carded 16 points while Tine Urnaut put up 13 for Slovenia that even stood its ground against world No. 1 Poland before claiming the scalp of China in the previous days.

The huge loss pulled Slovenia to 7-4 for a tie at sixth to seventh place with first-game loser Brazil entering the homestretch of the VNL Philippine leg that will determine the Top 8 teams advancing to the finals on July 19 to 24 in Poland.

Wilfredo Leon Venero spearheaded Poland’s supremacy over the 2016 Olympic and 2021 VNL champion Brazil with 22 points on 20 hits, a block and an ace, including a hammering kill in the first set for a slim 25-23 win.

Bartosz Bednorz added 11 points as 2021 VNL MVP Bartosz Kurek had 10 with Marcin Janusz manufacturing 17 sets for outright finalist Poland, which will host the 8-team finale on July 19 to 24 in Gdansk City.

“We prepare for this kind of games. Brazil is a very strong team so we knew from the beginning that it will be a tough game,” Leon Venero said. “Our team needs our best game as possible and we think it’s enough to win.”

Up against a determined foe that just swept the Netherlands the other day, Poland nearly wasted a 24-20 lead in the opening salvo as Brazil roared back with three unanswered points before Venero came to the rescue with a thunderous hit off a perfect Janusz set.

Poland cooled down in the second frame, trailing early at 12-16 as world No. 4 Brazil scored a 25-22 retaliation behind the combined efforts of Alan Souza and Ricardo Lucarelli Souza.

But Poland restored order right away as Bednorz and Kurek joined the barrage to help Venero in bagging a pair of 25-21 scores for the big win in VNL Philippine leg presented by PLDT as presentor with Rebisco, Akari and PSC as major sponsors.

Brazil, despite the 17 points of Souza and 14 of Lucarelli, slid to 7-4 at No. 6 in the final preliminary round of the VNL also backed by Fitbar, Instax Fujifilm, Fitness First, Pasay City, Taguig City, Diamond Hotel, Maynilad, Peugeot, SM MOA Arena, The Look Company and The Moment Group.

Image credits: NONIE REYES

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