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08/04/2021 09:00
Paola Egonu - young, powerful, valuable
CEV Champions League Volley 2021 - Women

Luxembourg, April 8, 2021. In any discussions about who the best player in the world of women’s volleyball is right now, the name of rising Italian star Paola Egonu invariably comes up. Maybe the word “rising” is now a bit out of place, since, at the young age of 22, the powerful opposite of A. Carraro Imoco Conegliano has already established a true stellar status, backed up by solid results, but also triggering great expectations.

One such expectation involves the Super Final of the women’s CEV Champions League Volley 2021 on May 1 in Verona, where Egonu and her teammates face the huge challenge of overcoming Turkish giant VakifBank Istanbul and winning their club’s first continental title.

For Paola herself, it wouldn’t be. She is a reigning Champions League gold medallist with her former club, Igor Gorgonzola Novara. In the last Super Final, in 2019, she not only scored the fantastic match high of 27 points to help defeat none other than Imoco, but she was also named Most Valuable Player.

That summer Egonu transferred to the club from Conegliano and, amazingly, ever since she did so Imoco have won 77 and lost only one of their matches in all official competitions. In the Champions League alone, they are on a 17-game winning streak since losing the 2019 final.

As part of that run, Imoco won gold at the last FIVB Club World Championship in 2019 (with Egonu named MVP of the tournament), two national cup trophies (with Egonu MVP in 2021) and two Italy Super Cup trophies (with Egonu MVP in 2019).

This Champions League season, the 190-cm-tall opposite of Imoco is currently on top of the most efficient scorers ranking. With 19 aces, 139 kill spikes and 16 stuff blocks across eight matches played, Egonu has the highest per-set average of 6.44 points among all players in the competition, almost half a point more than the next best (5.97). She excelled from the serving line with an average of 0.70 aces per set, again far higher than the second best in the league (0.55). As far as success rate in offence, Egonu’s 53.67% puts her above any Champions League players, other than five who play as middle blockers.

On Italy’s domestic stage, having already won this season’s cup and super cup, Imoco are now one win away from qualifying for the championship final in the national league. So far in Serie A, Paola Egonu has scored a total of 408 points, including 34 aces and 32 blocks, over 75 sets played. This means a per-set average of 5.44 points, again the highest in the competition. She also has the highest average of 4.56 attacking points per set and the second highest average of 0.45 aces per set.

In her relatively short career with the national team jersey, Paola has won silver medals at the 2018 FIVB World Championship and the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix and a bronze at EuroVolley 2019, in addition to the U19 World Championship gold and MVP award and the U20 World Championship bronze in 2015.

The spectacular final between Serbia and Italy at the 2018 World Championship in Japan will forever remain as one of the most memorable moments in the history of volleyball, especially with the great scoring rivalry between the two young opposites of the two teams – Egonu, then 19 years old, and Tijana Boskovic, then 21. Along with Serbia’s 3-2 victory, Boskovic snatched the MVP award, but with her 33 points in the final, the Italian striker not only set the tournament high of 324 points, but also made the Dream Team as the Best Opposite.

Despite all these superb individual statistics, the Italian super star believes it is teamwork that accounts for a team’s success.

“We are a very strong group. All the players chip in for the victory,” she said about Imoco’s winning run. “If we play as a team, we get great results.”

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