With his 23 points against Australia, Stephen Maar was among the top scorers on the opening day of VNL Week 2

A handful of star outside hitters again proved just how important they are to their national teams as Week 2 of the men's Volleyball Nations League 2022 started on Tuesday.

With highly-productive performances across the pools in Quezon City, the Philippines, and Sofia, Bulgaria, USA’s TJ DeFalco, Poland’s Kamil Semeniuk, Bulgaria’s Aleksandar Nikolov, Canada’s Stephen Maar and Japan’s Yuki Ishikawa all led their teams to important victories in their first matches in Week 2.

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Playing in his first VNL match this season, the 25-year-old DeFalco's strong performance helped the United States remain the only undefeated team in the tournament. The 25 points (23 kills, two blocks) produced by the outside hitter were key as the Americans topped Serbia 3-1 in Sofia on Wednesday to win their fifth consecutive match.

Torey DeFalco Points (USA vs. Serbia)

The Bulgarian capital was also witness to an excellent showing by 25-year-old Polish rising star Semeniuk in his VNL 2022 debut. With 18 points, he led the two-time reigning world champions to a 3-1 victory against Brazil in a rematch of last year’s gold medal match.

Semeniuk was a force at the net for the Poles on Wednesday, tallying 12 kills (at a 41.67% efficiency rate) and two blocks. He was also almost unstoppable from the service line, firing four aces to help the Europeans claim their fourth win in five matches this season.

Kamil Semeniuk Top Plays (Poland vs. Brazil)

On Tuesday, Bulgarian middle Nikolov shone for his team as the hosts swept Iran to secure their first triumph in the VNL 2022. The son of longtime Bulgarian national team opposite Vladimir Nikolov, the 18-year-old prodigy came up big for his country and fed from the energy of the home fans to push the team to victory against Iran.

Nikolov, who was especially efficient when hitting from the backcourt, carried the Bulgarian offence against the reigning Asian champions with 20 points, all of which were obtained in kills. He hit an excellent 51.61%.

Aleksandar Nikolov Points (Bulgaria vs. Iran)

Canada’s second victory in the VNL, obtained against Australia in Sofia, also came with a huge contribution by an outside hitter. Maar, 27, scored 23 points as the Canadians won 3-1. The 2.01m-tall outside hitter had 19 kills, three blocks and one ace to top the scorers in the match.

In Quezon City, Japanese captain Ishikawa was also a key player in Japan’s fourth victory in the VNL. The 26-year-old outside hitter tallied 18 points (15 kills, three aces) in the 3-1 win against Argentina, trailing only star opposite Yuji Nishida, who left the court with 25.