Volleyball players talk about the World Cup in their country: “We will go beyond our wild dreams” now

The Netherlands will host the Women’s Volleyball World Cup for the first time from Friday along with Poland. The rejuvenated Orange isn’t a favorite for the title, but players are hoping they can deliver a surprise with the help of the home crowd. Just like the 2015 European Championship.

At the end of one of the press moments at the Players’ Hotel in Apeldoorn, Celeste Black saw pictures on the photographer’s camera for the first time at the Gelredome’s volleyball court built specifically for the World Cup. “It sounds really crazy,” says the experienced slasher. “I’m really looking forward to training there for the first time on Thursday.”

The 26-year-old is one of four World Cup players out of fourteen selected for national coach Avital Selinger who also participated seven years ago at the European Championships in the Netherlands. Then the orange reached the final as an outside player, where Russia was very strong with a score of 3-0. With nearly 11,000 spectators, the final battle at Rotterdam Ahoy is the most attended volleyball match ever in the Netherlands.

“I have so many fond memories of that European championship,” says 32-year-old playmaker Laura Dijkima. “I will never forget the fans’ reaction after our semi-final victory point against Turkey. I expect the fans to give us a boost again in the coming weeks at the World Cup. It’s a kick as every point you get. Makes loud cheers.”

Orange wants to reach the World Cup quarter-finals

The 2015 European Championship was the beginning of a boom period for Dutch women’s volleyball. In 2016, the Orange team came very close to achieving a medal at their first Olympic participation in twenty years, but the United States was very strong in the fight for the bronze medal. A year later, the team of international stars such as Lonneke Slöetjes and Robin de Kruijf again won the silver medal at the European Championship, after which the 2018 World Cup finished fourth.

Meanwhile, Slotes (302 caps) and De Cruyff (347 caps) bid farewell to the national team, as did Yvonne Beilin (261 caps) and former captain Marit Balkisten-Grothes (392 caps). As a result, Dutch volleyball players are no longer considered some of the best in the world; Orange is tenth in the world ranking.

“Here we are with a new group, with six first-time finalists,” said Selinger, who was previously the Orange Women’s National Coach at the 2006 (eighth) and 2010 (11th) World Cups. “We are not one of the favourites yet. But if everything goes well we should be able to reach the quarter-finals. At that point anything is possible.”

Especially if the Netherlands can do something extra thanks to the support of the local public. “It’s great to be playing in our country,” says Selinger. “I think at the team meeting with the players on Wednesday, the exchange rate went down that something very special was coming, although we don’t know exactly what’s going on yet. But I think it will go beyond our wildest dreams.”

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Anne Puig secretly dreams of winning a medal at her fourth World Cup. “Of course, you always play for it,” says Captain Orange. “But we are not one of the teams that should get to the podium. Our tournament is successful if we get past ourselves and we can surprise the world.”

World Cup program in the Netherlands

  • September 23-October 2: First group stage (Arnhem, Gelridome)
  • October 4-9: Round Two (Rotterdam Ahoy)
  • October 11: Quarter-finals (Apeldoorn and Omni Sport)
  • October 12-13: Semi-finals (Apeldoorn, Multilateral Sports)
  • October 15: Finals (Apeldoorn, Omnisport)

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