VOLLEYBALL: Defending champ U.S women clinch berth in Nations League final round

Poland's scoring ace Malwina Smarzek (Photo: Zorro2212 via Wikimedia Commons)

We’re through 13 of the 15 round-robin games – five weeks of play – in the FIVB Women’s Nations League and the final round has come into focus.

Along with host China (10-3) will be Brazil (10-3), Italy (10-3), the United States (10-3) and Turkey (10-3), with one more team to join the party. That will be decided this week in the final round of round-robin games. The current standings:

1. 31 points Brazil (10-3: 35-13 sets won/lost)
2. 31 points Italy (10-3: 34-16)
3. 30 points United States (10-3: 33-15)
4. 30 points China (10-3: 31-12)
5. 29 points Turkey (10-3: 31-12)
6. 24 points Poland (8-5: 29-24)
7. 21 points Japan (7-6: 25-21)
8. 20 points Belgium (7-6: 25-24)
(16 teams total)

Turkey swept the U.S. last week (3-0) in Jiangmen (CHN), but the U.S. rebounded to defeat Poland (3-1) and sweep host China (3-0). In Tuesday’s game played in Ekaterinburg (RUS), the American women flew past host Russia (3-0) and have games remaining against the Netherlands (5-8) and Thailand (4-9).

The U.S. losses have come to the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Turkey, and two of those three will be in the final round tournament in Nanjing (CHN) starting on 3 July. But the U.S. – defending champions – should finish 12-3 and be on their way back to China.

The tournament’s leading scorer continues to be the prolific Malwina Smarzek (POL), with 330 points, followed by Brayelin Martinez (DOM: 249) and Gabriela Braga Guimares (BRA: 212). The top American scorer, as she has been for the entire season, is hitter Andrea Drews with 134 (18th overall).

The complete schedule (and statistics) are here.

Through three of five weeks of play in the Men’s Nations League, Iran and Brazil continue as the top teams, having each lost only one match. The current standings:

1. 24 points Iran (8-1)
2. 22 points Brazil (8-1)
3. 21 points Italy (7-2)
4. 20 points Russia (7-2)
5. 19 points France (6-3)
6. 15 points United States (5-4)
7. 15 points Poland (5-4)
8. 13 points Serbia (5-4)
(16 teams total)

The U.S. is already assured of being in the finals since it will host the tournament in Chicago beginning 10 July. Last week in Cannes (FRA), the U.S. defeated Argentina, 3-1, and Germany, 3-1, but lost to France, 3-1. The U.S. men are in the Chicago area this week – actually Hoffman Estates – for matches vs. Japan (4-5), Canada (4-5) and China (1-8).

Three players are close at the top of the scoring table for the men’s tournament after nine games. Canada’s Sharone Vernon-Evans has 158 points for top honors, trailed by Gabriele Nelli (ITA: 157) and Amir Ghafour (IRI: 151).

Look for results and schedules here.