Only two teams escaped the first week of pool play at the 2018 FIVB Nations League with an undefeated record, and just one came away with the maximum 9 points. The Netherlands swept Russia 3-0, while Turkey beat Poland by the same score on Thursday to wrap their opening weekend of play.
Turkey is 1 point behind the Netherlands, but tied in the win column, after a 3-0 win over Poland. The European bronze medalists aren’t so much a surprise team to emerge 3-0, but their performances have caught international attention.
The new format for this new tournament runs 5 weeks, 2 longer than the predecessor Grand Prix, and many teams have taken a ‘we have time’ tact in the first week of play. For a team like Italy, last year’s runners-up, who brought a roster that included only 2 of their 14 players from the team in last year’s final, that leaves them precariously perched in 15th place, just a few tie-breakers ahead of dead last. They’ll now need to chase two wins in each pool to assure a spot in the final 6, and even that might not be enough.
The Americans come away 2-1, which is where they need to be to remain in the hunt for the Final 6. They have a week 2 pool in Japan that could be another 2-winner against Japan, the Netherlands, and Belgium, but then will play a brutal 3rd week against Brazil, China, and Russia.
There were a few upsets, and a few “upsets,” on Thursday to close out the first week of action. China showed their first hint of vulnerability when they were swept 3-0 by South Korea. The young Chinese squad cracked under the pressure of their more experienced regional rivals. Meanwhile Serbia lost 3-1 to Brazil, the defending Grand Prix champions. While that shouldn’t really be an upset on paper, after Brazil’s 3-1 loss to Germany to open the tournament, it is a nice recovery from the hosts of pool 4
- Pool 1 recap (Netherlands, Russia, Argentina, Thailand)
- Pool 2 recap (China, Belgium, Dominican Republic, South Korea)
- Pool 3 recap (USA, Italy, Turkey, Poland) Recap 1 Turkey vs. Italy | Recap 2 USA vs. Poland
- Pool 4 recap (Brazil, Germany, Serbia Japan)