There's a good chance some people will refer to the Volleyball Nations League 2022 as ‘The Paola Egonu Show’. The Italian opposite had already appeared in the tournament twice before, but in none of her previous campaigns had she been as dominant as this year, when she led Italy to their first title with her brilliant game.
VNL 2022: The Paola Egonu Show
The Italian star has her best performance in the event to lead Italy to gold
Published 09:29, 18 Jul 2022
Through Egonu’s performances, for which she received her first Most Valuable Player award in the event, the Italians went all the way on Sunday in Ankara, Türkiye, adding a new country to the list of winners in the women's competition after USA claimed the first three editions of the VNL.
The 23-year-old Egonu was part of the Italian roster in the first edition of the VNL, in 2018. Already recognized as one of the top players on the planet, she remained somewhat shy of her own stellar standards, however, ranking 14th among the Preliminary Phase scorers with 180 points. In 2019, her production was similar, with 179 points and a 17th-place finish on the scorer’s table.
Egonu was not part of the Italian roster in 2021 and the one-year VNL absence seems to have gotten her fired up for the 2022 edition. Although her ninth place in the scorer’s table might not seem to be on par with her reputation, it certainly looks a lot more impressive when you consider that she produced 211 points participating in just nine of the 15 matches Italy played. Also because she left the court with fewer than 20 points on just two occasions - including in one match, when she was on the court for less than two entire sets.
The Italian star clearly saved her best game for the VNL Finals. Nearly half of her production came over the course of the last three matches in Ankara – her 83 points in the deciding stage of the event were 30 more than the second-best ranked player in the same period.
She guided Italy to a 3-1 victory over China in the quarterfinals with 36 points, dropped another 26 as the champions cruised past hosts Türkiye in the semifinals and was the top scorer of the gold medal match against Brazil with 21.
“I am very happy and proud of what I’ve done on an individual level, but even more of what we did as a team, which is the most important,” she commented. “We have achieved a great result, so we’ll rest a bit and start preparing for the World Championship, which will be another very important tournament for us. I want to dedicate our victory and my MVP award to my grandfather.”
Across the net from Egonu in the gold medal match was another player who stood out in the VNL 2022, middle blocker Ana Carolina ‘Carol’ da Silva. The 31-year-old Brazilian had excellent blocking performances throughout the event and ended up breaking the VNL’s record for blocks, which belonged to Polish Agnieszka Kakolewska.
The Brazilian ended the VNL with 63 stuffs, 12 more than second-placed Turkish player Zehra Gunes, and 11 more than the mark established by Kakolewska in 2018.
Unfortunately for her, her least efficient performance at the net came in the VNL gold medal match, during which she produced a single block point and wasn’t able to help her Brazilian teammates slow Egonu down.
Egonu, Carol and all the stars that competed at the VNL will be back in action soon, with the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship set to start in a little over two months in the Netherlands and Poland.