Adhuoljok Malual: VBC Casalmaggiore prodigy eager to live Olympic dream with Italy

The 22-year-old 188cm tall opposite with South-Sudanese roots is a volleyball star in the making

Born on 14 November 2000, to South Sudanese parents Yahya Malual and Mary Agar in Rome, Adhuoljok was always cut to be a sportswoman even though, by her own admission, not to the level of a professional volleyball player.

“When I first joined the school volleyball team, other players were way ahead of me. Within a short time, I had improved and caught up with them. After seeing the results, I decided to pursue volleyball seriously,” said the third born in a family of four.

“I love South Sudan and I also love Italy because this is where I was born and raised. Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to play for the (Italian) national team. If South Sudan had a national team competing at a high level then perhaps, I would have considered,” she added. “I have been to Juba [Capital of South Sudan] severally and stayed there for almost a month. It was exciting getting to meet some of my relatives and making friends. I hope to help South Sudan in future in terms of sport. I have something in mind.”

Adhuoljok Malual played for the Italian national team in a number of international competitions

Casalmaggiore breakthrough

It wasn’t long before volleyball scouts took note of her progress in Argentario Progetto in Trento and Club Italia Crai came calling.  After two years at Club Italia Crai, a move to Green Warriors Sassuolo and five months with Texas University, Adhuoljok returned to Italy to join the top-tier Italian club VBC Trasporti Pesanti Casalmaggiore.

After learning the ropes in 2021/22, she has finally come of age this season. Her route to the first team has partly been aided by an injury to first choice opposites Polina Rahimova (in the 2021/22 season) and Emiliya Dimitrova (this season) but she has always stepped up whenever she is called upon.

“In my first year I didn’t really expect to play because there were many aspects of my game that I needed to improve on. I was used to playing with girls almost my age but A1 was different and demanding. When Polina got injured early in the season, I knew had to start playing immediately. At first, I was a bit scared but I love challenges. Once I got going I became better with every game.”

Comparisons with the world's best

A glimpse of her rich potential was evident earlier this year in a league match against Vero Volley Milano. She emerged Most Valuable Player after scoring a game-high 24 points made up of 19 kills and five blocks as VBC Casalmaggiore ran out 3-2 winners.

Adhuoljok Malual is focused on performing at her best

Her overall tally of 151 points (130 kills, 14 blocks, 7 aces) in 16 games has steered VBC Casalmaggiore to sixth place with 28 points, 16 behind Prosecco Doc Imoco Conegliano. This performance has inevitably earned her comparisons with Italy’s star opposite Egonu, a “big honour” in Adhu’s words.

“It really motivates me to be compared to one of the best players in the world. It gives me a lot of hope when people see this in me because Egonu is up there technically,” said Adhu who hopes to follow a similar path to stardom.

Adhuoljok Malual (right) receives her silver medal during the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Women’s U20 World Championship in Mexico.

Like Egonu – who has Nigerian roots – Adhu has featured for Italy’s U20 team in the European Championships (2018) and World Championships (2019) winning gold and silver respectively. She is optimistic of a senior team call up with the Volleyball Nations League and Olympic Games Paris 2024 qualifiers lined up this year. “If the national team calls me, I will be super happy. It will be the best thing to happen to me.”