VNL: Belgium blows lead, recovers to beat Bulgaria in thriller
MANILA, Philippines — Britt Herbots erupted with 26 points as Belgium survived Bulgaria in a thrilling five-set duel, 25-22, 25-23, 20-25, 20-25, 17-15, on Sunday to wrap up its Week 2 stint of the Volleyball Nations League (VNL) at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Belgium flirted with disaster after blowing a 2-0 lead that allowed Bulgaria to force a decider, where Miroslava Paskova gave the latter a 5-2 advantage.
Herbots came to the rescue in the fifth set as middle blocker Silke Van Avermaet nailed a big block to take match point, 14-12. However, a service error from Belgium and back-to-back hits from Maria Yordanova and Silvana Chausheva pushed Bulgaria a point away from stealing the match.
The 22-year-old outside spiker scored two consecutive clutch kills for Belgium before Pauline Martin delivered the match-clinching spike that demolished Bulgaria’s net defense to finish the Quezon City leg with a 3-5 record in the 11th spot.
“We know Bulgaria is a difficult team they have good attackers, they dig a lot. The fifth set was really tough because we were down also, but we came back. I’m very happy. I’m very proud,” said Herbots, who had 23 attacks and three blocks to go with 12 digs and seven receptions.
Herbots, who is currently the league’s leading scorer with 194 points, offered their win to team captain Celine Van Gestel after spraining her right ankle in the second set.
“I think we started really well in the first two sets and then we were a little bit more in difficulty, we also lost an important player, the win is also for her,” said the member of the Firenze club in Italian Series A1 League.
Van Avermaet also stepped up with 13 points off nine attacks, three blocks, and an ace, while Marlies Janssens added 10 markers before heading to Week 3 in Calgary, Canada.
Bulgaria dropped to the 14th seed with a 2-6 record. Yordanova led the way with 19 points. Chausheva chipped in 14 points. Nasya Dimitrova nailed nine kill blocks and five attacks to also finish with 14, while Paskova and Mira Todorova added 13 and 11 markers, respectively.
The Bulgarians will head back home to Sofia to host Week 3, where they will try to avoid relegation.
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