FM WU18 TURvsITA (39)

Several players who are currently competing at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship in Durango, Mexico, also represented their countries at the U20 World Championship in Belgium and the Netherlands. But only one of them, Italian outside hitter Julia Ituma, is in position to make history over the next few days.

The 1.91m-tall outside hitter, who came off the bench in each of the eight Italian matches two months ago, could become the first player to win gold medals at both Age Group World Championships in a same year if the Europeans succeed in Mexico.

“That would be really nice and I’ll do my best to make it happen,” Ituma said. “Competing at the U20 World Championship was a valuable experience for me. I learned how to play as a team and how important it is to help each other in difficult moments. I’ve learned a lot of lessons, including how to win, and I hope I can use all of them here.”

The victory with her country’s U20 team was certainly remarkable for Ituma, who scored 26 points during the Italian campaign, but she feels that doing the same with the U18 group would mean even more for her.

While in Belgium and the Netherlands the athletic outside hitter was a depth piece for the team, in Durango the Italian success will strongly depend on her play. Ituma hasn’t disappointed so far, scoring 44 points to lead her team to victories against Egypt and Turkey in Pool B.

“I’m the protagonist here, people expect a lot from me and I know I can deliver,” she said. “These are the teammates I’ve been training with for the last three years, this is my team. It brings a different feeling and a different level of responsibility and I’m ready to take it.”

Ituma is Italian's leading scorer in the tournament

Ituma is Italian's leading scorer in the tournament

A daughter of Nigerian parents, Ituma impresses for her aggressive and physical playing style. Her heritage and her ability to score points makes it almost impossible not to draw comparisons with international star Paola Egonu, who led Italy to their first U18 world title six years ago.

“She’s obviously a fantastic player and I do have her as a model,” the 16-year-old Ituma said. “My coaches and teammates keep comparing me to her and saying that I can be as good as she is. I appreciate the comparisons, but at the same time I believe I’m a different player and I have to follow my own path in my career.”