From January 10 to 16 we are counting down the 12 best players per gender in 2021, looking back at some of the highlights of the year including the FIVB Volleyball Nations League and the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Today we continue the women’s countdown with the players ranked 2nd to 4th.
Best of 2021: Women’s countdown 2-4
Published 04:00, 15 Jan 2022
Who were your top players of the year?
For Justine Wong-Orantes, the American libero of Germany’s Wiesbaden, 2021 was an important year. She fought her way back on to the US national team and went on to prove her value by making a solid contribution to the two big gold medals earned last summer. The 1.68m-tall athlete received a chance to shine at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Italy, helped Team USA celebrate their third consecutive VNL title and grabbed the Best Libero spot on the tournament Dream Team. Then Wong-Orantes was selected among the 12 players for Tokyo 2020 and, at the age of 25, made her Olympic debut. And what a debut it was! USA won their first Olympic gold in history and their libero picked up another individual award as the Best Libero of the competition.
For Paola Egonu, 2021 was marked by her club team Prosecco Doc Imoco Volley Conegliano's continued winning streak, which extended to a new world record of 76 consecutive victories across all competitions. As part of that dream run, which started back in 2019, the 1.93m-tall opposite and her teammates won almost everything there was to win during 2021 – the three major domestic trophies in Italy and the CEV Champions League – with Egonu claiming three Most Valuable Player awards among several other individual honours. Imoco failed to win the FIVB Volleyball Women's Club World Championship in December, but reached the final after a semifinal victory on Egonu’s 23rd birthday. They settled for silver, while Egonu led both the best scorers and the best attackers of the tournament. At the start of the Tokyo 2020 Games in the summer, Paola was Europe’s representative among the six athletes who received the honour of carrying the Olympic flag during one of the Opening Ceremony’s highlight moments. Later in the competition, the Italian national team were knocked out in the quarterfinals, but that did not stop their opposite from finishing third-best among the attackers, among the servers and among the overall scorers of the tournament. Egonu’s national team season was highlighted by a continental title at the CEV European Championship, where she also claimed the MVP award. She was named 2021 Female Volleyball Player of the Year by the European Volleyball Confederation.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games highlighted the season for talented Serbian star Tijana Boskovic. In the Japanese capital, the 24-year-old opposite spearheaded her national team towards the bronze, the second Olympic medal of her career. She was by far the best scorer of the tournament on 192 points, 56 clear at the top of the chart. The 1.94m-tall opposite was also the best attacker and the second-best server of the competition, rightfully earning her spot on the Dream Team as the Best Opposite. Serbia stopped just short of winning yet another continental title at EuroVolley 2021, which they hosted in Belgrade. They advanced to the final but settled for silver, while Boskovic was again the top scorer and the top spiker of the tournament and was named on the All Star Team by the fan votes. With her club side, Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul, Boskovic made the 2021 final of the Turkey Cup and was the the 2020-2021 season’s best scorer in the Turkish national league.