Lausanne, Switzerland, April 19, 2019 – In the last week of the preliminary round in the women’s 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League, Russia will entertain the Netherlands, Thailand and defending title-holders USA at the Palace of Sports in Ekaterinburg.
“This is great joy for the fans in the first place - to watch the national teams play and see a completely different level of volleyball,” Irina Voronkova, Russia’s best scorer of the inaugural edition of the VNL in 2018, told fivb.com. “And I think the players are also pleased to perform at home.”
Scoring a total of 210 points in last year’s VNL, Voronkova finished seventh in the overall scorers’ ranking of the preliminary round. With 16 aces to her name, she was also in the top 10 of the best servers chart. “Well, it could be better,” the 23-year-old outside hitter commented. “But it’s all good work, so I am positive.”
In 2018, Russia won ‘only’ eight of their 15 VNL games and failed to qualify for the finals, but Voronkova remained positive about this result as well. “In my opinion, our performance in the VNL last year went quite well. It was a hard competition and I think it was a great experience, especially for the young players,” she pointed out.
While she wishes her team had done better than the eighth place at the 2018 World Championship in Japan, Voronkova explained the result with the fact that some of her teammates were injured at the time. “We did everything we were capable of at that moment, but I think the team is great and there is much to strive for and work on. We will move forward,” said the 190-cm-tall athlete.
Shy of stating a specific goal her squad should pursue in the 2019 VNL, Irina Voronkova put it simply, “It all depends on us. I can say one thing - we will try our best.”
As of the current club season, Irina Voronkova became a member of a brand new volleyball project, the freshly established team of Lokomotiv Kaliningrad. In their rookie season in the Russian Superliga, Lokomotiv have already advanced to the gold medal series. Voronkova and her teammates finished the regular season in second place after losing only three of their 22 matches. Going through the quarterfinals without losing a game, Lokomotiv followed up with two wins over Voronkova’s previous team Dinamo Kazan in the semifinals and are now awaiting the name of their opponent for the championship title. “We have a good team and we are doing everything possible to win the championship,” was Irina’s short comment.
At Lokomotiv, she enjoys having her father Andrey Voronkov as the head coach. In fact, both her dad and her mom are former volleyballers, so she had her career choice pretty much pre-made for her. “My whole family is connected to volleyball, so to say, and everyone understands and supports me,” Irina said. “I try to spend more and more time with my relatives and the people close to me.”
There are a variety of activities Voronkova likes to get involved with in her leisure time outside volleyball. Last year, after the end of the VNL, she spent a couple of “fruitful and calm” weeks recovering and relaxing in Montenegro. She is also a big film fan and very fond of psychology. “I want to learn how to embroider as well. I am waiting for the end of the season when a friend of mine will teach me.”
The Russian international chose not to pick out a dream squad of teammates, but pointed to one player she regards as her idol.
“Each team I played for is special and has its own masters. Moreover, there are still many teams ahead in my career,” Voronkova explained. “The only person I would always like to play with is Lyubov Sokolova, who has already finished her career. She is my idol. I would like to play with her in a team and learn a lot from her.”