The German women’s national team has changed, at least in terms of its starting line-up. The main reason – Denise Imoudu and Lina Alsmeier, two young players, who made the squad for the FIVB Volleyball Nations League at the start of the current national team season and took full advantage of the opportunity to establish themselves as starters in coach Felix Koslowski’s selection.

Denise Imoudu is a 25-year-old setter, who had some previous calls to the national team, but 2021 was the first season she has been relied on as the number one playmaker of the German squad. She gained experience as a team member in the first two editions of the VNL, in 2018 and 2019. In this year’s edition, Koslowski entrusted her with the role of a starting setter and Denise proved her worth, finishing sixth in the preliminary round’s individual ranking for that position.

Unlike Imoudu, Lina Alsmeier was not a starting player right from the beginning of VNL 2021. In the first couple of matches, the 1.89m-tall outside hitter came in as a sub, but gradually earned her spot among Germany’s starting seven. She finished the tournament as the preliminary round’s fourth best receiver and her team’s second best scorer.

At Germany’s next official competition, the CEV European Championship currently running in four different countries, both Imoudu and Alsmeier appeared on Koslowski’s starting line-up for the most important first three games of the pool stage in Plovdiv, against the team’s three main rivals for the top spots in the Pool B standings, and helped Germany advance to the knockout stages. They finished the pool in third place on a 4-1 win-loss record as the only team who managed to defeat hosts and eventual pool winners Bulgaria.

“It’s nice that both of us can play now,” Imoudu told Volleyball World after one of the EuroVolley matches in Plovdiv. “It’s good to have the trust of the coaches and the teammates, and it’s a lot of fun. I am really happy about being a starter on the team. For sure, I feel a lot more pressure and more responsibility, but I really like it; and I just love the team, so it’s easy for me.”

“For me, it was a little bit unexpected to be a starting player, but I am really happy and I enjoy it a lot,” said Alsmeier, who turned 21 years old just after the VNL. “This is my second European Championship, but for the first one it was super spontaneous that I was even there. Now I am trying to improve, learn and show my skills on the court.”

Could the experience Alsmeier, Imoudu and the rest of their teammates gained by playing the VNL have set the foundations for Germany’s great start at EuroVolley?

“For sure!” said Lina. “The VNL lasted five weeks and we learned a lot together. Now we’re trying to put it all out on the court. We had some great matches in the VNL and learned a lot from good players and good teams. It helped me a lot to improve my game.”

“The VNL was a very long tournament, but it was so much fun playing with the team,” Denise added. “I think we really developed as a team in a good way and now we are really stable at EuroVolley. We played 15 games in the VNL, which is a lot, almost a whole season! I think this was so important for us, also ahead of the European Championship. It really helped calm me down a little more.”

Lina and Denise are teammates not only on the national team, but also in their club, SSC Palmberg Schwerin, which they both joined for the 2020-2021 season. They know each other well, and, as they both exclaimed, they love each other and love playing alongside each other.