Top-ranking women’s volleyball teams will be in action in Hong Kong this week. China, Japan, Russia and Serbia will battle it out in preliminary matches of the annual FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix at the Hong Kong Coliseum from Friday to Sunday.
Here are some of the outstanding players to watch out for.
Zhu Ting is an outside hitter and captain of China’s women’s national volleyball team. One of the world’s best players, Zhu is well-known for her powerful spikes and smart angles. She was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the 2015 FIVB World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympics, and received the 2016-2017 Turkish League Best Outside Spiker and Best Scorer awards.
Nataliya Goncharova, originally from Ukraine, started playing for the Russian team in 2010. She is an opposite hitter, and a difficult opponent to defend against due to her height – she is 1.94 metres tall – and heavy spikes. She won Best Opposite awards at the 2015 FIVB World Cup and Grand Prix events, and the MVP title at the 2016 Women’s European Qualification.
The defensive experts
Sato Arisa is a world-class libero and cornerstone of Japan’s defence. Famous for her diving saves, Sato won the Best Libero award at the 2013 World Grand Champions Cup and the Best Receiver Award in the 2013-2014 Volleyball Premier League.
China’s Lin Li, also a libero, plays a key role in her team’s defensive strategy. Like Sato, Lin has amazing reflexes and has saved many spikes that have been blocked by opponents. She was named Best Libero at the 2016 FIVB World Grand Prix and 2016 Rio Olympics.
Miyashita Haruka started playing for the Japanese women’s volleyball team in 2010 and made her debut at the 2010 Asian Women’s Cup Volleyball Championship. She is calm and composed on court, with pinpoint accuracy in setting, which allows her team’s spikers more scoring options. She won Best Setter award at the 2016 Rio Olympic qualification tournament.
At 2.01 metres, China’s Yuan Xinyue will be the tallest player in the Hong Kong tournament. Thanks to her height, Yuan has an imposing presence at the net, delivering spikes down the middle, acting as a decoy, and blocking. She has represented China’s national team since 2014 and helped her country won the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Jovana Brakoevi, the opposite spiker for Serbia, is 1.96 metres tall. Apart from playing a crucial role in blocking and spiking, she was named the Best Server at the 2007 European Championship. Of all the players mentioned here, Brakoević has won the most number of individual awards, including Best Spiker at the 2010 and 2011 European League, and MVP at the 2011 European League and Championship and 2013 FIVB Club World Championship.