Lausanne, Switzerland, February 8, 2019 – Dutch opposite Lonneke Sloetjes had a good 2018. At a club level, she and her teammates from VakifBank Istanbul defended their titles in the FIVB Volleyball Women's Club World Championship and the CEV Champions League. With the national team of the Netherlands, Sloetjes made the final four of the World Championship in Japan.
Lonneke Sloetjes celebrates another great performance with the national team of the Netherlands
In the inaugural edition of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League, the Dutch team finished fifth and to Lonneke Sloetjes that means there is room for improvement. “For sure we wanted more. We didn’t go there to not reach the final four,” she told fivb.com. “It was disappointing, but a wake-up call for us. We used it to grow as a team and know what we don’t want to do.”
The 1.92m-tall athlete put on a strong performance at the VNL 2018. She was the eighth best scorer of the preliminary round and the fourth most efficient spiker at the finals, but she did not impress herself. “I was not in my top shape at the time!” she admitted.
And she proved it soon after, when she became the best server and the second best scorer of the World Championship. In what was probably her team’s most important win at Japan 2018, Sloetjes hammered out 38 points in the 3-2 victory over USA, which propelled the Netherlands into the semifinals.
“For me and for the team it was a really important moment,” she commented. “Of course, I was very excited to score that many points, but I must give credit to the team, because we did it together.”
A very exciting club season, with VakifBank emphatically winning the Club World Championship and cruising undefeated through Europe’s Champions League, had to slow down a little for Sloetjes because of a foot injury, but now she is fully recovered and feels “perfectly fine”, as she reveals, knocking on wood. She hopes her club will be as successful as in previous seasons and looks forward to another busy national team season with the Netherlands.
“This summer is going to be very hard, with a lot of important tournaments. The VNL is a big tournament, a chance for our younger players to gain experience and prepare for the Olympic qualifications, the European Championship and maybe the World Cup,” Sloetjes pointed out. “The VNL is a super cool tournament. The organizers do a great marketing job. They really try to develop the sport for the fans; to make it bigger, to make it more professional from the fans’ standpoint. The coolest thing is that they highlight the stars of volleyball and bring them closer to the fans.”
The Netherlands will be hosting a pool in VNL 2019 and Sloetjes thinks this is quite exciting for the Dutch fans. “We’ve organized a lot of tournaments and other activities lately in Holland, and the sport is really popular now. It’s getting bigger and bigger and people are really excited when we play at home. We have more spectators coming to our games to see us play live and to get our signatures. For us it is very important to perform as a team with them by our side.”
Until then, Lonneke Sloetjes is part of the stellar VakifBank family. She has learned to cope with the pressure of being among some of the world’s biggest volleyball stars and finds it very rewarding. To be a two-time world champ is “amazing - really the best feeling you can have,” she exclaimed. “Having a World Championship title on your list of achievements is really valuable. In my first year with VakifBank I was very star-struck and really nervous, because it was not an everyday thing to play for a club like this. You don’t want to mess up. You want to give your best. With time I started feeling more relaxed. I would never say about myself that I am one of the big stars now, but I realized that even the biggest stars are just like me – they eat, they sleep, they train… Everyone is human.”
Sloetjes and Zhu may be teammates at VakifBank, but in the VNL they play on the opposite sides of the net
On her “human” side, the 28-year-old striker likes to use the little free time that she has to go back home, to see her friends and family, to decorate the house she recently bought… While in Istanbul, she enjoys the full-time company of her cat Jack and the part-time company of her boyfriend Thomas, who studies computer science in the Netherlands, and only spends half of his time in Turkey.
“Thomas and I have been together for ten years and it is hard to stay away from each other for long. So we found a solution and that’s very nice!” Sloetjes said. “As far as Jack is concerned, he is a Turkish cat and lives with me in Istanbul. I adopted him two years ago. We are all very happy. I don’t have any time left for holidays, but when I am done as a player, I would like to travel the world and see different things, not only hotels and gyms…”
On the fun side of her duties as a professional volleyballer, Sloetjes was asked to name her ideal team.
“Maja Ognjenovic is a really good setter. Zhu Ting is the world’s best in position 4. As a passing position 4, I think Kelsey Robinson is the best. Milena Rasic in the middle doesn’t need any explanation. As the other middle blocker, I choose Foluke Akinradewo. She has a great one-leg slide. And for libero I pick Monica De Gennaro.”