Belgium's fairytale continues with 3-0 win over Russia
2012 CEV Junior Volleyball European Championship - Men
Gdynia, Poland, August 27, 2012. Belgium is the undisputed leader of preliminary Pool I after three rounds of action were completed in Gdynia. The group has got a perfect record of 3 wins in as many matches after ousting Russia in straight sets on Monday to follow up on their victories over Serbia and Poland. The hosts stormed back from two sets down to eventually edge Italy 3-2 and are currently ranked third as their set ratio is worse than the figures registered by the “Azzurri”. In the other match of the day, Serbia bested Finland 3-1 to claim their first positive result in the Pool but the road to the semis still appears quite complicated for the group around 2012 Olympian Uros Kovacevic.
After two shocking defeats in straight sets to Belgium and Russia, Serbia finally got back on track claiming their first win at the final round of the 2012 CEV Junior Volleyball European Championship on Monday beating Finland 3:1 (26-24, 25-10, 14-25, and 25-21). With this result the doors for the semis are not totally closed but Serbia will have to score some more positive results after the day of rest on Tuesday.
This match was the last call also for Finland that had also lost two matches and the “Suomis” opened with a good pace (7:2), before Serbian star Uros Kovacevic finally found his way into the game (8:6). Serbia eventually flipped the score around going up 12:11 and gradually opened the gap well powered by Kovacevic (20:15). Some mistakes by the Serbian defense line helped Finland come closer in the score (20:18) and after a tie at 22, Sinisa Zarkovic finished it off at 26-24.
Serbia started out strong also in set 2 (8:6, 10:6) and with their great spikes and blocks the “Plavi” were able to sail away (16:7); on the other side of the net, Finland was all mistakes and a block by Aleksandar Okolic contributed the final, impressive 25-10.
Finland knew they had nothing but to go for a mission impossible in set 3 and they eventually surprised their opponents with good blocks to go to the front (10:6, 14:8); Tommi Siirilä was particularly effective for the Finns and the “Suomis” ultimately cruised to a 25-14 that totally reversed the outcome of the previous set.
The Finns stretched that momentum also to the early phases of the fourth set (7:3) before Serbia clawed back and went ahead in the score with a spike by Kovacevic (14:12). Elviss Krastins scored three for Finland to make it 16:15 for his opponents at the second technical time-out but after that Serbia changed the pace with Brdovic, Kovacevic and Stankovic going for the 25-21 that sealed their 3-1 win.
Later in the afternoon Belgium extended its supremacy in the group by scoring a terrific 3-0 win (25-23, 27-25, and 25-15) over Russia to maintain a perfect record going into the rest day coming up tomorrow.
The major sensation of the tournament after two days, Belgium got another demanding test on Monday playing the heirs of the 2010 junior European champions from Russia. The group that is mentored by the youngest coach in the tournament, Steven Vanmedegael, did not show any fear while standing in front of the always physically imposing Russian players and was quickly able to impose their game (8:4, 14:10). Russia was, likewise in the previous matches, too faulty but still could profit of a short blackout of the Belgians to fight back to level the score at 22 all. The Belgians nevertheless stayed focused and a time-out called by their coach helped get back the necessary confidence to claim the opening set 25-23 via a serving error by Yaroslav Podlesnykh.
Belgium dictated the pace of the game also in the second set (8:5) but halfway through the score got a little closer even though the guys captained by Tomas Rousseaux were regularly ahead, and especially by the moment the deciding phases were approaching (20:17, 22:19). However, Russia showed some real determination fighting their way back to 24:23 but after missing on a first opportunity for the provisional 2:0, Belgium cashed their second set ball for the 27-25 that turned the game into a very demanding uphill climb for Russia.
The Belgian show continued also in the third set (8:3) as Russia looked not capable of varying their play in offense, made almost exclusively of high balls, and everything looked just fine for Belgium as Francois Lecat called for the second mandatory stop (16:11) with a splendid attack from the wing. It was really impressive to see the superb and smooth flow accompanying all of their actions (20:13); with the Russian defense lacking quality – coach Shlyapnikov did not miss his chance to yell a bit around as he is normally used to – a flurry of mistakes just paved the way with gold for Belgium. A couple of net violations contributed 10 (!) match balls for Belgium and the historic win – and second defeat in straight sets in three days for Russia, this is also something that people have witnessed quite rarely in Volleyball history – was there as Arno Van De Velde scored from the middle of the net to seal his side’s third consecutive win in Pool I. “It is always good when you win 3-0 and even sweeter it this happens when you play Russia. I am really happy and satisfied with the performance of my guys, they are improving match after match and today it was not easy as some were still feeling the fatigue from yesterday’s game with Poland” said coach Vanmedegael. “We need to score one more win in the next two matches and then we’ll be sure to pocket a pass for the semis”.
Italy dissipated a 2-0 lead in the last match of the day in Pool I before the teams enjoy a well-deserved day of rest and eventually suffered the comeback of the home side that totally ruled in the deciding tie-break to claim their second win of the tournament (21-25, 18-25, 25-20, 25-19, and 15-6) after losing another decider on Sunday to Pool leader Belgium.
With Belgium having downed Russia, Italy needed to edge Poland in the last match of the day to remain in contention for the top position of the group and actually the young guys mentored by Marco Bonitta started out with the right pace and intensity (4:0, 8:4); the home heroes were boosted by the local audience, as usual provided with the traditional white and red outfits and by their outstanding left-handed opposite Maciej Muzaj, but as the set progressed, they still were chasing their opponents who maintained a slight margin of a couple of points (21:19). Although Poland eventually compensated for that gap at 21 all, Italy played the next couple of rallies very cleverly to restore their leadership (23:21). An ace by Luca Borgogno piled up three set balls for the “Azzurri” – actually today playing in white jerseys – and the final 25-21 was sealed by a double block that demonstrated the mental strength of the guys coached by Bonitta in the key moments of the set.
A similar story unfolded in the second set where Italy got immediately to the front and Poland almost always had to come from behind; actually the score was almost leveled by the second technical break (15:14) but right there Italy changed gear once more, with a splendid series of attacks and the excellent consistency showed by their defense line. Well commanded by their setter Marco Izzo, the Italians scored from almost every single angle of the court, alternating fast balls to more sophisticated combinations, while Poland evidently lacked quality in reception, and Luca Borgogno pocketed the provisional 2-0 with a pipe attack that you may rarely see at such level in a junior competition (25-18).
Having no other chance than to push hard to possibly get back into the game, Poland opened with a splendid 8:4 run in the third set before a lucky ace by Marcin Janusz (12:7) prompted a time-out by Italian coach Bonitta. His guys responded well and almost cut the gap to a minimum (15:13), but with Poland speeding up to 20:16, Bonitta changed his diagonal with Luca Spirito and Gabriele Nelli replacing Izzo and Caci. Still Poland kept the upper hand and even though a good serving turn by Luca Borgogno reduced a little the deficit, Muzaj finished it off at 25-20 to call for the fourth set.
Things did not look any better for Italy in the opening phases of set 4 with Poland quickly going up 6:2 and 8:4; however, the course of the game changed once more as Italy found back their original composure to go for the -1 before Muzaj anchored another spectacular run for the home side (16:11). Lukasz Lapszynski and Piotr Orczyk helped the home favorites resist to a potentially dangerous comeback of the Italians (21:18) and Poland got the right to play their second tie-break in two days – actually similarly to Italy – after the unhappy end of yesterday’s game with Belgium (25-19).
Poland was just flying on the wings of enthusiasm opening the deciding set with a terrific 7:0 that Italy could no longer compensate for; at 13:4 for their heroes, the audience started the countdown separating Poland from the finish line and Orczyk left his mark on a crosscourt that piled up 9 match balls, with top scorer Maciej Muzaj closing it out for the hosts’ second win in the prelims (15-6).
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