March 22, 2023

China defeated Bulgaria 3-1 (26-28, 25-23, 25-23, 25-17) in a four-set match on Saturday. Both teams were eliminated from the men’s Volleyball Nations League 2022 Finals.

The squad achieved a top-13 finish with their third win of the campaign. China may move two spots in the standings on Sunday despite a 3-8 win-loss record and nine points. Bulgaria finished 14th with 2-10 and nine points.

Bulgaria took a 5-1 lead in the first set after Gotsev blocked four consecutive points. China caught up at 8-8, but a Zhang Guanhua block gave them their first lead at 17-16. At 24-23, Europe reached set point first. Great attacks from both teams forced overtime. Finally, Chinese setter and captain Yu Yaochen tapped a ball off Bulgarian outside Martin Atanasov’s block on its way out of bounds to end the set 28-26 for Bulgaria.

China took a four-point lead in the second set when middle Li Yongzhen blocked for 5-2 and Zhang Jingyin aced for 6-2. Bulgaria never recovered. Peng Shikun smashed it through the middle for 25-23 to tie the match.

At the third set technical timeout, Zhang Jingyin monster-blocked to give China a three-point lead. He scored 14-10 with a cross-court kill. Wang Jingyi’s 16-11 bomb without a block followed. Another remarkable rally, in which Yu Yaochen made an incredible back-of-the-hand set while diving for the ball, gave China a 19-14 lead. Zhang Jingyin capitalized with a pipe shot. Wang’s off-the-block hit gave set point at 24-21. Bulgaria rallied to within one before Zhang Jingyin’s final pipe kill ended the set at 25-23.

A monster block by Yu Yaochen gave China the first break point in set four, followed by two more aces by Peng, one powerful and one delicate, and another monster block by Yu for a 5-0 Chinese lead. The Asian team cruised to a 25-17 triumph, capped by outside Yu Yuantai’s spike.

“I think we did pretty well today and collected vital experience from this encounter,” China’s Yuan Dangyi remarked after the game. Every win motivates us. We appreciate our fans. Whatever the match, whatever the score, we must do our best…”

Before the match, China was 19th in the FIVB World Ranking, while Bulgaria was 20th. Ezequiel Palacios and Luciano Vicentin scored 17 points each.

USA defeated Canada 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-19) with TJ DeFalco scoring 18 points. The Americans moved to 9-2 and are third on 25 points, close behind second-placed Japan (9-2 and 27) after a 3-1 (23-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-20) come-from-behind win over Germany with opposite Kento Miyaura scoring 17 points.

Iran will play Serbia in Gdansk before the Netherlands and hosts Poland close the penultimate competition day of this first edition of VNL 2022.

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