Egonu and De Gennaro are among the most popular players called up by Mazzanti

Reigning European champions Italy will take on the Volleyball Nations League 2022 with all their key players after head coach Davide Mazzanti announced the country’s 25-player squad for the tournament.

Featuring nine of the 12 players who represented the country at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, Mazzanti’s team is spearheaded by star opposite Paola Egonu. The 23-year-old hitter, who was the MVP in Italy's victory at the 2021 European Championship, will once again lead the team’s offence with her powerful game.

Considered by many the best libero in the world, 35-year-old Monica de Gennaro will be the centrepiece of the Italian defensive system, while middle blocker Cristina Chirichella will take control of the team’s efforts at the net.

Mazzanti's selection also includes some younger players who stood out for their club teams in the Lega Pallavolo vivo Serie A1 Femminile, including outside hitters Alice Degradi and Elena Perinelli, middle blocker Federica Squarcini and libero Sara Panetoni.

“The selection will bring together players who were protagonists in our team in previous seasons and athletes who have had done well in recent tournaments,” Mazzanti said. “We selected this roster with this mix. Some of these 25 players will play in the VNL and also remain in the team for the Mediterranean Games.”

With all of their stars available, Italy will attempt to secure their first medal in the VNL this season. Italy finished seventh in the inaugural edition in 2018, improved to sixth in 2019 and were 12th in 2021, when they hosted the event in Rimini.

“The biggest challenge with the new format of the VNL will be organising training sessions in the weeks without matches,” Mazzanti added. “But luckily, we’ll be able to return to Italy when that happens. I expect the VNL to be extremely competitive again and with the world rankings playing a big factor in Olympic qualification, we’ll try to field our most competitive lineup every week. We’ll be monitoring the players' physical condition, and we’ll approach each week with the utmost attention as the goal is to qualify for the Finals in Ankara.”

Italy are in Pool 2 in the first week of the preliminary phase of the VNL from May 31 to June 5, and will play hosts Turkey, Belgium, the Netherlands and China.

Italy women’s national team roster:

Setters: Alessia Orro, Ofelia Malinov, Ilaria Battistoni and Francesca Bosio

Opposites: Paola Egonu and Sylvia Nwakalor

Outside hitters: Alessia Gennari, Caterina Bosetti, Miriam Sylla, Elena Pietrini, Anastasia Guerra, Sofia D'Odorico, Alice Degradi, Terry Enweonwu, Elena Perinelli and Loveth Omoruyi

Middle blockers: Cristina Chirichella, Anna Danesi, Marina Lubian, Sara Bonifacio, Federica Squarcini and Alessia Mazzaro

Liberos: Monica De Gennaro, Eleonora Fersino and Sara Panetoni