Eda Erdem (TUR)

With action starting Tuesday in Italy's Adriatic resort of Rimini as the women's tournament of the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Nations League gets underway, there's nagging questions around, that can only be answered through the course of the 124-match, month-long event.

But check back here once the competition is done and we'll have all the answers for you.

Can USA get the hat-trick with a third title in as many editions of the VNL?

USA have dominated the women's competition at the VNL since the inaugural edition, winning both finals in absolutely nail-biting five-setters - outlasting Turkey in 2018 and coming back from two sets down to beat Brazil in 2019.

This year they are fielding an impressively strong team in a bid to defend their title, including both previous VNL MVPs - Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (2018) and Annie Drews (2019). Their Rimini squad also features four Olympic bronze medallists from Rio 2016 and nine from the team that won the 2019 VNL.

But Brazil, Russia, Turkey and Japan are also bringing exceptionally powerfull teams to Rimini. Question is, can anyone challenge USA?

Annie Drews (USA)

Annie Drews: MVP of the 2019 VNL. Can she push USA to their third title and keep the prestigious individual award?

Can Malwina Smarzek be the top VNL scorer for a third time?

The 24-year-old Polish opposite dominated the scoring in dramatic fashion at both previous editions of the VNL, amassing 361 points in 2018 and demolishing her own record with 421 a year later.

She also appears a record ten times on the list of players who have scored 30 points or more in a single VNL match - including the all-time record of 42 points in just four sets when Poland beat Bulgaria in 2019 in Apeldoorn.

Smarzek is back again this year. Can she keep on scoring like she has in the last two editions?


Malwina Smarzek: She's been scoring like there's no tomorrow in 2018 and 2019. Can she keep it up in 2021?

Will the serving and blocking VNL records be smashed?

Poland's Agnieszka Kakolewska and Brazil's Adenizia 'Ade' da Silva jointly hold the record of most blocks in a single VNL match - nine, both dating from the inaugural edition of 2018.

Kakolewska is again in the VNL this year (as Poland's captain), as is Ade.

Turkey's Eda Erdem, Italy's Paola Egonu and Indre Sorokaite, and the Dominican Republic's Bethania de la Cruz have each served a record seven aces in a single VNL match. Of these, only Erdem and de la Cruz are in Rimini.

Can these records be beaten, or will they stand for another year?

Will Bethania De La Cruz again be the Dominican Republic's serving ace?

Will Bethania De La Cruz again be the Dominican Republic's serving ace?

Who are the budding stars of the future that will leave their mark on this year's VNL?

This year's VNL features a mix of experienced squads and a host youngsters out to prove themselves and leave a mark on international volleyball.

Brazil and Thailand are fielding the oldest teams this year, with an average age of 30. This includes the oldest player in the tournament - Brazil's Carol Gattaz, 39, a two-time FIVB Volleyball World Championship silver medallist in 2006 and 2010 plus runner-up at the 2007 FIVB Volleyball World Cup. Gattaz has also helped Brazil pick up as many as five FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix gold medals.

At the other end of the spectrum, the average age of Serbia's squad in Rimini is 21, including the youngest player in this VNL, middle blocker Hena Kurtagic at the tender age of 16 (she won't turn 17 until after the VNL, in August 2001).

Regardless of whether experience will trump youth, this VNL will prove an excellent opportunity to watch the new generation of stars come of age.