Germany (GER) vs. Italy (ITA) women - Pool 1 - Preliminary Phase #15524412

Antropova and her teammates celebrate against Germany

An important battle between two contenders for Olympic vacancies opened the third competition day in Volleyball Nations League 2024. Fuelled by opposite Ekaterina Antropova when it mattered the most, Italy celebrated their first success of the season, handing Germany their first defeat in a four-set Pool 1 duel in Antalya on Thursday afternoon.

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Italy achieved a 3-1 (25-16, 25-16, 21-25, 25-22) victory with Antropova producing a match-high 24 points, including the match winner. The 21-year-old Italian opposite proved very efficient in the key moments of the game, especially when the true battle unfolded on the court in sets three and four. In the first two sets, she scored just eight points combined, but when things got really hot on the court, she delivered six points in the third set and another 10 in the fourth. Her tally included four kill blocks and two aces. Caterina Bosetti added another 16 points towards Italy’s win, while middle blocker and captain Anna Danesi raised five of Italy’s 18 kill blocks (against just seven from Germany) to finish with 13 points. Lina Alsmeier was Germany’s best scorer with 12 points to her name.

2.59 is the number of FIVB World Ranking points Italy were able to regain and Germany had to drop following the outcome of Thursday’s match. This was enough for Italy to get one position back up in the chart, surpassing China into number six and regain the status of the highest-ranked team without a stamped ticket to Paris. Germany stayed as number 12 in the ranking, just below the cut-off for the Olympics.

Italy were well in charge pretty much throughout the first set, dominating over Germany with their superb blocking, which brought in six points, including Danesi’s 25-16 set winner. To their superiority in blocking, the Italians added superiority in serving during the second set. While Bosetti was spearheading the attack, her teammates fired four aces in the set. Germany managed to close an early gap to catch up at 12-12, but then fell far behind again as Antropova nailed an ace for another 25-16 set win, doubling Italy’s lead.

In the third set, the German serve started working and in turn brought in four aces. The score was once again last level at 12-12, but this time Germany broke away to never look back. Finally, middle blocker Marie Scholzel’s attack proved too difficult for Italy to handle and the set ended at 25-21 Germany’s way. The Germans kept the pressure on with middle Monique Strubbe dominating at the net. However, they could not hold on to the seven-point lead they opened as it was time for Antropova to shine. Italy caught up at 18-18, Germany broke away with a 21-18 lead again, but after 22-21, Italy spiked four points in a row, three of them, including the match winner, authored by Antropova, to close the set and the match.

Germany (GER) vs. Italy (ITA) women - Pool 1 - Preliminary Phase #15524430

Anna Danesi and Ekaterina Antropova on the block

“We knew we could put up a good battle if we did our job and we did the small things well. I think at the point when we did those things well, we could compete at the same level with Italy, but when we didn’t pay enough attention and we didn’t do the standard things well, our level was a little bit too low,” commented Lina Alsmeier after the game. “The positive today was that we knew we could compete with them over a short of time, but our goal is to compete with them for longer. Next we are playing against Japan, quite an organized team and a very good opponent, so now our full focus falls on them.”

“This match was crazy! I think the most important part was obviously that we won,” said Ekaterina Antropova. “It was an important win for us, mostly because it showed us that we can do this. Even though we are a new team, we know how to power through the difficult moments together. This game was an excellent proof of that.”

🇩🇪 GER vs. 🇮🇹 ITA - Highlights | Week 1 | Women's VNL 2024

In their next matches on Friday, Germany will take on Japan at 14:00 local time (11:00 UTC) and Italy will meet Bulgaria at 20:00 (17:00).

Wednesday’s competition day offers two more Pool 1 games in Antalya – Bulgaria v Japan at 17:00 local time (14:00 UTC) and Netherlands v Türkye at 20:00 (17:00). Action will then continue with the Pool 2 games in Rio de Janeiro – Brazil v Korea at 14:00 local time (17:00 UTC), China v USA at 17:30 (20:30) and Dominican Republic v Canada at 21:00 (00:00).

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