Serbia (SRB) vs. Bulgaria (BUL) women - Pool 5 - Preliminary Phase #5584915

Tijana Boskovic

Serbia’s head coach Giovanni Guidetti started his team’s second match in Pool A of the women’s FIVB Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifiers with a very different starting seven from the ones he used in the first match, but the result was the same: an emphatic straight-set victory.

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On Sunday in Ningbo, the reigning world champions mastered a 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-16) shutout of Ukraine. Their Generation O star Tijana Boskovic highlighted the match by firing as many as 22 points over the three sets of her debut game of the tournament in China. The phenomenal opposite hammered five of Serbia’s nine aces in the match, raised two kill blocks and put away 15 points in attack.

Outside hitters Aleksandra Uzelac and Bianka Busa also reached the double digits with 14 and 10 points, respectively.

None of these three athletes appeared in Serbia’s first game of the pool on Saturday, when they downed Mexico, also in straight sets. They were among the five starters against Ukraine, who did not start against Mexico the day before, the other two being middle blocker Jovana Stevanovic and libero Aleksandra Jegdic.

Setter Sladjana Mirkovic and middle blocker Mina Popovic were the only two players, who started in both matches, while legendary veteran playmaker Maja Ognjenovic and the team’s third setter, Ana Jaksic, are the only two who have yet to get some playing action on the court in Ningbo.

Showing both bench depth and confidence, this strategy also clearly shows that Guidetti is distributing his team’s energy mindful of a long and important tournament and preparing for the big battles ahead.

“I am happy about the first two days. Basically, all the players played and showed good condition and it gave me some good feedback,” the Italian coach said. “The first match was good. The second today was also very good. I think the team was very focused. The block-defence was very precise.”

This strategy also leaves their next opponent wondering whom they will have to cope with on the court. And Serbia’s next opponent is Canada. The two teams will meet on Tuesday’s opening match at 10:00 local time (02:00 UTC).

“The next match is very important, against a strong opponent, Canada, that is playing very well. We lost to them in the VNL and we don’t like to lose twice to the same team,” Guidetti added.

On Sunday, Canada played their second consecutive five-set battle in Ningbo. After defeating the Netherlands on Saturday, this time the North Americans suffered a 3-2 (25-17, 22-25, 23-25, 25-18, 15-12) loss at the hands of Dominican Republic, who, on the other hand, bounced back from Saturday’s five-set loss to Czechia. Canada’s Alexa Gray and Dominican Republic’s Gaila Gonzalez shared the match top-scorer honours with 25 points each.

The Netherlands also recovered with a 3-0 (25-13, 25-18, 25-21) shutout of Czechia with Nika Daalderop leading the way with 18 points, including five kill blocks, while hosts China produced their second straight-set victory, 3-0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-7) against Mexico, with 13 points each from middle blocker and captain Yuan Xinyue and star outside Li Yingying.