Herbots was a force for Belgium during the Preliminary Phase of the VNL

The Preliminary Phase of the Women’s Volleyball Nations League 2022 came to an end this past weekend and the United States, Brazil, Italy, China, Japan, Serbia, Thailand and hosts Türkiye are the eight national teams that will make the trip to Ankara from July 13-17 for the Finals of the fourth edition of the tournament.

The opening round consisted of 96 matches, which were played across six different countries from May 31 to July 3, and several players who were part of the 16 teams competing in the VNL stood out for their excellent performances.

· Watch all VNL 2022 matches live on Volleyball TV.

Belgian outside hitter Britt Herbots confirmed her reputation as one of the top scorers in international volleyball by leading the scoring table of the Preliminary Phase for a second-straight season with 306 points (282 kills, 15 blocks and nine aces) – 63 more than the next player to appear on the list, Japanese captain Sarina Koga. Her 282 attack points were also the highest mark in the entire tournament.

Herbots reached double digits in scoring in all but one of her 12 appearances and scored 30 or more points on four occasions, most notably in a 3-1 defeat to Germany last week in Calgary, in which she tallied 34.

Britt Herbots (Belgium vs. Germany)

Although her 2021 total of 337 points was higher, the 22-year-old Herbots was able to significantly improve her points per match average from 22.4 to 25.5 this season. Despite her efforts, Belgium had the least victories among the challenger teams, and will have to compete in this year’s Volleyball Challenger Cup to return to the VNL in 2023.

Brazilian middle blocker Ana Carolina ‘Carol’ da Silva tied the record for most block points in the Preliminary Phase of the VNL, producing 52, the same mark Polish Agnieszka Kakolewska registered in the inaugural edition of the event, in 2018 (which was played in a different format).

Carol was the only player to average more than four blocks per match (4.33) and started the VNL on fire, generating 30 blocks in Brazil’s first five matches, including seven in a straight-set victory against Poland.

Carol (Brazil vs. Poland)

The Preliminary Phase of the VNL also showed that Thailand continue to have one of the best setters in the world, despite the international retirement of Nootsara Tomkom. In their first major tournament without the star veteran, since 2002, the Asians are relying on Pornpun Guedpard.

Elevated to the role of team captain, the 29-year-old didn’t feel the pressure of replacing the legendary Tomkom, and produced 475 successful sets – Polish star Joanna Wolosz ranked second with 305. The Thai setter had an impressive average of 39.58 sets per match and an excellent efficiency rate of 40.32%. She was certainly one of the reasons why the Thais were able to secure a spot in the Finals.

Canada’s Kiera Van Ryk also had a very comfortable lead at the top of the servers' table. The 23-year-old opposite fired a tournament-high 20 aces. She also had a remarkable success rate at 13.51%. Van Ryk registered aces in nine of the 12 matches she played (and as many as three on four occasions).

Looking at the defensive side of the game, Polish libero Maria Stenzel was probably the most efficient player in that area. The 23-year-old defender tied with Japan’s Manami Kojima for the most digs in the tournament at 176 (14.67 per match) and had a slightly better efficiency rate at 80%. Stenzel’s best defensive performances came against Thailand and Belgium, when she had 27 digs.

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Stenzel in action during a match in the Preliminary Phase

With 132 successful passes, she also ranked second in the receiving stats, only behind German counterpart Anna Pogany, who led the tournament with 162. The 27-year-old German averaged 13.5 successful passes per match, with an efficiency rate of 58.48%, and had an impressive 35 successful passes in the team’s second match, against Japan.