It will have been 338 days since the end of last year’s Volleyball Nations League when the first serve of this year's opening match takes place on May 31, in the duel between the women’s teams of Thailand and Bulgaria in Ankara, Turkey.
The 2022 VNL in numbers
This season's Volleyball Nations League begins on May 31
Publicado 08:31, 25 may. 2022
That will also be the first of 208 matches (104 in each gender) that will take place over a period of 55 days from the first day of the competition on May 31 to July 24, when the men’s champions will be crowned in Bologna, Italy, bringing the curtain down on the fourth season of the tournament.
As in each of its first three editions, the 2022 VNL will feature the best 32 teams in the world (16 in each gender), this year representing 21 different countries and four of volleyball's five continental confederations.
In this year's new competition format, 16 men’s and 16 women’s teams will compete in pools of 8 teams over the three weeks of the pool phase, with each team competing in four matches each over six days of competition per week (Tuesday - Sunday). Eight teams per gender will then move into the final knockout phase of the competition.
The event will take elite-level volleyball to 11 different host cities in ten countries, including Ankara, the stage of the women’s Finals from July 13-17, and Bologna, which will receive the eight men’s finalists from July 20-24.
With each of the 32 teams being able to enter up to 25 players in their rosters (which are trimmed down to 14 for each match day), a total of 800 athletes are eligible to be on the court during this year’s edition of the VNL.
There are, of course, extremes in that player pool. On the men’s side, Slovenia will have both the oldest and the youngest players in this year’s tournament. Opposite Mitja Gasparini will be 37 years, 11 months and five days old when the event starts on May 31. One of his teammates, outside hitter Nik Mujanovic, will start his first VNL campaign at the age of 17 years, seven months and nine days.
The European nation also has one of the tallest players among the men, middle blocker Saso Stalekar, who stands at 2.14m, the same height as fellow middle blocker Siebe Korenblek of the Netherlands. Japanese libero Kazuyuki Takahashi is the shortest among the 400 men entered in the VNL at 1.70m.
Among the women, Bulgarian outside hitter Eva Yaneva will be 36 years, nine months and 23 days old when her team play the opening match on May 31. She is set to meet the youngest player entered, Belgian middle blocker Yana Wouters (15 years, 11 months and 13 days on opening day), on June 19, in Quezon City, Philippines.
Defending champions USA will have the tallest female player in the event, middle blocker Dana Rettke, who stands at 2.04m. Another Japanese libero, Manami Kojima, is the shortest player among the women at 1.58m.
In the end, the number that will matter the most is the number one, which will go next to the names of the champions in the men’s and women’s standings.
Players will also be looking to break the individual records that were set over the first three editions of the VNL. The top scorer of a single campaign remains Brazilian opposite Wallace de Souza, who produced 277 points in the inaugural edition in 2018, with 240 kills, 21 blocks and 16 aces.
Some other individual marks were established last season, when Serbian middle blocker Marko Podrascanin tallied 44 blocks, Dutch opposite Nimir Abdel-Aziz fired 36 aces and Italian libero Fabio Balaso registered 161 digs.
The women’s scoring record remains with Polish opposite Malwina Smarzek, who registered an impressive 421 points (376 kills, 34 blocks and 11 aces) in 2019. She also owns the second-best mark, of 361 points, established the year before, in 2018.
Another Polish player, middle blocker Agnieszka Kakolewska, holds the record for the most blocks with 52, in 2018. Belgian middle blocker Marlies Janssens and Polish setter Marlena Kowalewska share the record for the most aces, with 24 in 2019 and 2018, respectively, while the Dominican Republic's Brenda Castillo produced a record 250 digs in 2021.