Opposite Sylvia Nwakalor and middle blocker Alessia Mazzaro were among the first players called up by Velasco

The Italian women’s national team officially started its preparations for the 2024 international volleyball season on Monday, with a group of 16 players selected by new head coach Julio Velasco training in Milan this week.

Hired last November to replace Davide Mazzanti, the 72-year-old Velasco picked players who already concluded their club seasons to start his second stint with the team. New athletes will be added to the group as their teams complete their calendars in the upcoming weeks.

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In his first call up, Velasco selected setters Carlotta Cambi and Giulia Gennari, opposites Martina Bracchi, Camilla Mingardi and Sylvia Nwakalor, outside hitters Rebecca Piva, Alice Degradi, Gaia Giovannini, Stella Nervini and Loveth Omoruyi, middle blockers Yasmina Akrari, Benedetta Sartori, Emma Graziani and Alessia Mazzaro and liberos Ilenia Moro and Ilaria Spirito.

“We’ll start our preparations with the players that already completed their club seasons,” Velasco remarked. “We’ll add new names after the conclusion of the semifinals of the Italian League and then will have a final selection after the end of the tournament and the Champions League. We are looking for players who will be ready to help from the start and so we prioritized those who were starters this season.”


Velasco was introduced as the new coach of the Italian women's national team in November (Photo: FIPAV)

Olympic qualification is the first goal

Starting the Volleyball Nations League 2024 well will be very important for Italy as the country’s national team is still looking to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics after finishing third at last year’s Volleyball Olympic Qualifier in Łódź, Poland.

With that, the Europeans need to earn FIVB World Ranking points during the VNL Preliminary Phase to secure one of the five remaining spots – they’re currently the highest-ranked non-qualified national team among the women, in fifth place.

“Our goal is to be ready for the first week of the VNL, when the players that appear in the Champions League Final won’t be available,” the coach revealed. “Then, we plan on having our full roster for the two other rounds. We all know that the VNL will be very important considering the fact that it will give us the opportunity we need to earn points and qualify for Paris 2024.”

VNL 2024 - Match Schedule

Italy will open their VNL 2024 campaign in Antalya, Türkiye, where they will play European rivals Poland, Germany, Bulgaria and the home team from May 14-18.

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