2019 FIVB VNL Preview: Belgium Women's National Team

Belgium’s women’s national team did just enough at last year’s competition to continue playing in the FIVB VNL 2019. 

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Finishing in 13th place with just four wins, the Belgians are young but hungry to prove themselves, even if that means simply stealing a set from a team like defending champion USA within its pool. 

The team is understandably looking to climb up a notch or two this year, or at least stay on and avoid relegation. Is Belgium ready for a spot in the top 12?

FIVB VNL 2018 record & stats

Win/loss: 4 / 11 

Points: 12 

Sets win/loss/ratio: 18 / 36/ 0.500 

Points win/loss/ratio: 1115 / 1250 / 0/892 

Final position: 13th

What’s new for Belgium in FIVB VNL 2019?

Belgium’s women’s team largely consists of a collection of young players so there hasn’t been any significant movement in the last year since we last saw them at FIVB VNL 2018. 

Head coach Gert Vande Broek, who has been at the helm since 2008, is back to ensure the team continues improving. 

Belgium world ranking: 19 (October 2018)

Belgium FIVB VNL 2019 match schedule

Week 1

May 21 at 9 AM CT – Belgium v USA 

May 22 at 12:30 PM CT – Bulgaria v Belgium 

May 23 at 9 AM CT – Belgium v Japan

Week 2

May 28 at 2:30 AM CT – Belgium v Korea 

May 29 at 6:30 AM CT – China v Belgium 

May 30 at 3:30 AM CT – Belgium v Thailand

Week 3

June 4 at 1:15 PM CT – Belgium v Russia 

June 5 at 1:15 PM CT – Belgium v Poland 

June 6 at 1:15 PM CT – Belgium v Serbia

Week 4

June 11 at 10:30 AM CT – Belgium v Netherlands 

June 12 at 1:30 PM CT – Germany v Belgium 

June 13 at 10:30 AM CT – Belgium v Dominican Republic

Week 5

June 18 at 11 AM CT – Turkey v Belgium 

June 19 at 8 AM CT – Belgium v Brazil 

June 20 at 8 AM CT – Belgium v Italy

Belgium games to watch out for in FIVB VNL 2019

Last year, Belgium managed to overcome fellow challenger teams Dominican Republic and Argentina. But it also pulled off a couple of upsets against Asian teams South Korea and Thailand.

Argentina has been relegated in lieu of Bulgaria, which qualified through the inaugural Challenger Cup last year, but Dominican Republic is back so it should be an interesting rematch for those two squads. 

It would be quite exciting as well to see how Belgium matches up to South Korea and Thailand once more, and whether or not it can swipe a match against fellow challenger Poland, which defeated Belgium three sets to one last year. 

Definitely keep your eyes on Belgium when it takes on the Netherlands again. 

The Dutch, ranked seventh in the world, barely scraped by with the win in a thrilling five-setter. Belgium went up 2-1 and the Netherlands needed 31 points to win the fourth set and force a decider. The geographic neighbors have plenty of similarities, albeit the Dutch have found more success, and it seems like a strong rivalry is brewing.

Belgium provisional FIVB VNL 2019 roster

Head coach: Gert Vande Broek 

Setters: Ilka Van De Vyver, Elise Van Sas, Jutta Van De Vyver, Oriane Moulin, Charlotte Krenicky,

Liberos: Britt Rampelberg, Britt Ruysschaert 

Middle Blockers: Bieke Kindt, Nathalie Lemmens, Laura Heyrman, Freya Aelbrecht, Dominika Sobolska, Iris Vandewiele, Marlies Janssens, Silke Van Avermaet 

Wing Spikers (Outside & Opposite Hitters): Britt Herbots, Laure Flement, Celine Van Gestel, Kaja Grobelna, Dominika Strumilo, Karolina Goliat, Jodie Guilliams, Manon Stragier, Anna Valkenborg, Felice Vanassche

Average age: 22.4 (16th oldest)

Average height: 183.1cm (12th tallest)

Belgium players to watch in FIVB VNL 2019: Britt Herbots, Kaja Grobelna

Given that Belgium is a young team, there’s a lot of potential for its players to step up and take charge. 

At last year’s FIVB VNL, outside spiker Britt Herbots (19), and opposite spiker Kaja Grobelna (24), were the go-to players. The pair led the Belgians in all of their victories last year. They often combined for double-digit outputs in every match and regularly cracked 20-plus points each. They also got sufficient help from wing spiker Celine Van Gestel (21), and middle blocker Marlies Janssens (also 21). 

The development of these players should be crucial to how far Belgium can go internationally.

The bottom line: can Belgium crack the top 12?

Belgium hasn’t had a history of winning when it comes to women’s volleyball. The team’s best performances and results in international play came in 2013, during the European Championship (bronze) and European League (silver). Before that the squad’s best finish at the World Championship was 11th place in 2014. 

It began participating in the World Championship in 1956 but has mostly failed to qualify in succeeding years. It also did not qualify for the 2018 World Championship in Japan. But the team showed flashes of brilliance at last year’s FIVB VNL, when it stole sets from top teams like Russia, Brazil, and Germany. 

The average age for this Belgian women’s team is 21, with the oldest player only 26, so there is plenty of room for growth, especially as these young players gain more experience. It’s worth pointing out that the overwhelming majority of the roster plays within Belgium’s local league, compared to many other top-tiered teams whose players participate in international leagues outside their home country. 

Belgium’s young players would stand to benefit from more international exposure, both on the club and national team levels. Regardless, this team will be aiming to crack the top 12 and pull off upsets here and there. But it would take nothing short of its best performance to take down some of the better teams.

What is a realistic FIVB VNL projection for the Belgium women’s team?

This squad clearly still has a long way to go before it is ready to take down world volleyball powerhouses, but another year of growth and experience at the VNL should bode well overall. 

A good result would certainly be to stay on for next year, but an even better one would be to finish within the top 12.

How to watch Belgium in FIVB VNL 2019

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