For those of you new to these 2018 men’s nations league previews, this will give you a better idea of the teams that you’re unfamiliar with and will allow you to follow the tournament more easily. The format consists of 5 weekends of round-robin play taking place in different locations around the world followed by a final round in Lille, France on July 4-8th.
I’ll be doing the previews in reverse order of my own personal, unofficial power rankings. Feel free to let me know why your team is too low.
China is entering Nation’s League 2018 as our 14th ranked team, which might be disappointing to the many Chinese volleyball fans. There is a silver lining, however, in the amount of young talent on this roster (which I seem to say about every team at the bottom of the rankings). In last year’s World League China placed fifth in group 2 and 17th overall, which leaves the country with a lot of room to grow.
China has ten players from last year’s team listed on their preliminary roster, with the standouts being setter Li Run-ming, outside Ji Dao-shuai, and the crown jewel of Chinese volleyball, opposite Jiang Chuan. I could talk for days about this star opposite, currently playing for Beijing Baic Motor in the Chinese Volleyball Super League. In most leagues, especially the Asian leagues, the top of the stat leaderboards are dominated by foreign-born players. But in China, it’s all Jiang Chuan.
Jiang is 1st in the league in both points and kills, and finished 6th in aces. There are some legit players in China too. Gord Perrin, Kevin Tillie, Julien Lyneel, and Facundo Conte are first options on some of the best national teams in the world, yet Jiang bests them all, at least statistically.
As great as Jiang Chuan is, the rest of the Chinese Nations League team is plagued with question marks, especially regarding their overwhelming youth. The team is basically a daycare. Eight of the players on their preliminary roster were born in 1995 or later, with the youngest, Peng Shikun being only 17 years old. It is not as if these players will be riding the pine either, players like Du Hai-xiang, Rao Shu-han, and Jiang Chuan, who is the oldest in that group at 23, are all expected to start and play essential roles for this team. Similar to the Korean team, the Chinese team is also looking forward to the Asian Games and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, hoping to build a team identity that would allow them to find success in both of these international competitions.
In the past, this program has been criticized for its disorganization and unprofessionalism by former players, most notably libero Ding Hui. The team this year will be looking to shed the reputation set by its predecessors, and live up to the brilliance of the chinese women’s volleyball team.
Likely starters (players to watch in italics):
OH: Du Hai-xiang (Sichuan)
OH: Ji Dao-shuai (Shandong)
OPP: Jiang Chuan (Beijing)
MB: Chen Long-hai (Shanghai)
MB: Rao Shu-han (Fuijan)
S: Li Run-ming (Shandong)
L: Tong Jia-hua (Shanghai)