March 15, 2024

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Leon Fuels Poland to Big Win over Brazil

4 min read
Leon Fuels Poland to Big Win over Brazil

In a Pool 6 match on Friday in Pasay City, Poland and Brazil put up a four-set fight despite already having secured spots at the Volleyball Nations League 2023 Finals in Gdansk. Outside hitter Wilfredo Leon led the Europeans to a 3-1 (25-23, 22-25, 25-21, 25-21) victory. The Finals’ hosts currently sit in third place with a 19-point advantage and an 8-2 win-loss record. Brazil is sixth with a 7-4 and 22.

While mistakes made up the majority of the game—Brazil made 34 compared to Poland’s 27, which significantly affected the result—Leon also contributed significantly with 22 points. He scored 20 points with a success rate of 61%, delivered an ace, and blocked a kill. With 17 points, two blocks, and opposition Alan Souza, he was Brazil’s most productive player.

Brazil’s offense was more effective than Poland’s in the first set, but it also committed a lot of unforced errors, which helped the Europeans maintain control throughout the entire set and earn five set points at 24-19. The South Americans blocked the first four, but on the fifth Leon nailed it cross court for his sixth point of the set and for 25-23. Like a mirror image of the first set, the second one was similar. This time, Brazil took the lead thanks to some outstanding serving from Ricardo Lucarelli and Lucas Saatkamp, while the Poles, led by captain Bartosz Kirek, scored a lot of points in attack but also committed far too many errors. A serving error by Jakub Kochanowski allowed the opponents to celebrate a 25-22 victory after they had previously saved two Brazilian set points.

The third set was a close one, and unforced errors once more tipped the scales in Poland’s favor. The Europeans won the set 25-21 after another error from the end line, this time on a long serve from Saatkamp. With Leon on fire, Poland never let Brazil catch up after scoring three straight goals to take a 6-3 lead early in the fourth set. Norbert Huber, a middle blocker, scored a first-tempo kill to make the score 25-21 and seal the victory.

“For us, and especially for me, playing against Brazil is always an extremely emotional experience. I know how heavy it is to play against them, but I’m always very happy when we win,” said Leon after the game. “It can be challenging to respond when they apply pressure to you with their serves, but I told myself to “stay focused and you know what to do.” I have to admit that it’s quite enjoyable to perform in front of these fans in the Philippines. I find it wonderful that fans, especially early in the morning, come to watch this kind of game here. They yelling out my name was not something I anticipated…”

Brazil and China will face off on Saturday at 11:00 local time (03:00 UTC). At 15:00 (07:00), Poland will take on Canada.

Lucas Saatkamp shone with six kill blocks toward a 10-point match high and shared the match’s top scorer honors with teammate Henrique Honorato and Dutchman Wouter Ter Maat as Brazil hammered out a 3-0 (25-21, 25-15, 25-20) shutout of the Netherlands to secure their ticket to Gdansk. The Netherlands are in eighth place with a 5-5 win-loss record and 17 points, four ahead of Serbia in ninth place, on the cusp of advancement but still above the red line.

After defeating China 3-1 (25-21, 25-20, 24-26, 25-23) to move up to 7-3 and 22 in fifth place, Slovenia followed suit and also earned a spot in the Finals. 15th in the standings on 2-8 and six, the Asians continue to be in immediate danger of being demoted. Top scorer in that game for the victorious team was Klemen Cebulj with 21 points.

Thursday saw the conclusion of one more game in Pasay City. Canada came back from a set down twice against reigning world champions Italy, with Ryan Sclater leading the way with 22 points, but failed to collect their third win of the competition and also remain at risk of relegation in 13th place on 2-8 and six. The Italians defeated the Americans 3-2 (25-14, 23-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-9) to move up to seventh place, just missing out on a spot in the Finals. They currently have a record of 7-3 and 20. Their leading scorer, Alessandro Michieletto, had 18 points.

Slovenia will take on Italy at 15:00 local time (07:00 UTC) on Friday in Pasay City. At 19:00 (11:00), Japan will take on the Netherlands. Serbia and France will face off in Pool 5 in Anaheim at 13:30 local time (20:30 UTC), Cuba will play Germany at 17:00 (midnight UTC), and hosts USA will entertain Argentina at 20:30 (03:30 UTC the following day).

Reference: en.volleyballworld.com

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