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Nikolov is ranked third among the top VNL scorers

Bulgaria came very close to securing their first victory in the Volleyball Nations League 2022 on the opening weekend of the tournament, when they took Germany and Canada to five sets in Ottawa, but the Europeans needed the support of their home fans and another excellent performance by outside hitter Aleksandar Nikolov to finally claim a win on Tuesday in Sofia.

Playing in front of thousands of fans in Sofia, the Bulgarians dominated reigning Asian champions Iran to a three-set (25-19, 25-23, 26-24) victory that allowed them to celebrate their first triumph and also to start the VNL Week 2 with a positive result.

· Watch all VNL 2022 matches live on Volleyball TV.

Besides the loud home fans, the Bulgarians also benefited from the flawless performance of the 18-year-old Nikolov. The son of the great Vladimir Nikolov, who played as an opposite for the country’s national team between 2001 and 2015 and helped the Bulgarians take bronze at the 2006 FIVB Volleyball World Championship and the 2007 FIVB Volleyball World Cup, seems to be ready to lead the team to glory.

The 2.03m-tall outside hitter was unstoppable at the net for this team, scoring all of his 20 points in kills and hitting to an excellent efficiency rate of 51.61%. He currently ranks third in points scored in the VNL with 82.

“It feels awesome, I’m super happy,” Nikolov said about the victory in front of his team's fans. “The home crowd was absolutely amazing and I hope to see them again over the week. We’re working to take this team to the level where it can win Olympic medals and everything else, and I am sure we will. Just give us some time.”

Aleksandar Nikolov Points (Bulgaria vs. Iran)

Nikolov was active during the entire match and helped the Bulgarians win the first rally of the match by scoring from the backcourt with a powerful spike to score 6-3 in the first set. In the second set, the 18-year-old outside hitter tooled the block to score a key point, taking the Bulgarians to within just one point of the Iranians at 22-23. He also scored the point at 24-23 for his team, before the Iranians hit the ball out to give Bulgaria the set win.

In the third set, the Bulgarians turned to Nikolov in key moments as the young outside hitter scored the team’s 20th and 21st points before a block from Svetoslav Gotsev ended the match.

With six blocks and four kills, Gotsev was the third most productive player on the court behind Nikolov and fellow outside hitter Martin Atanasov, who tallied 14 (ten kills, four aces).

Svetoslav Gotsev Successful Blocks Leader in Iran vs. Bulgaria

On the Iranian side, opposite Amin Esmaeilnezhad and outside hitter Morteza Sharifi led the way with 17 and 14 points, respectively.

Bulgaria will be off for the next two days before returning to the court on Friday, when they will face Australia at 20.00 local time (17.00 GMT).