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03/01/2013 22:10
Azerbaijan causes first sensation in Volos, Greece and France open with speedy wins
2013 CEV Youth Volleyball European Championship - Girls

Volos, Greece, January 3, 2012. The qualifying tournament for the 2013 CEV Youth Volleyball European Championship – Girls got started on Thursday in Volos with two straight wins claimed by France and Greece over Finland and Denmark respectively while Azerbaijan contributed a first sensation coming back twice from one set down to eventually edge pre-favorite Spain at the tie-break.  
In what was the opening match of the tournament France easily downed Finland in three straight sets (25-16, 25-19, and 25-14) to start out its quest for a ticket to the final round in full swing. The young girls from France easily controlled the operations in the first set standing out especially with their offensive skills and with Nina Stojiljkovic wrapping it up with an ace (25-16). France dictated the pace of the game also in the second set going up 16:8 and even though Finland attempted a comeback (22:19), this section of the game ended with the final 25-19 that guaranteed France a 2:0 lead in sets. Finland opened set 3 with a 5:1 break but France flipped the charts around as Elsa Descamps was standing behind the serving line, contributing a massive 9:1 to move up 10:6 in the score. After that, some blocks and the attacks killed by Héléna Cazaute did pave the way for the final 3:0 that was sealed via a massive 25-14 in the third and last set. “It was not as easy as the score may suggest” said France’s head coach Serge Marouteau. “For a young team it is always difficult to control their emotions, so the problem was not on the other side of the net, but actually on ours. We came here to get a ticket to the final round, but we take it step by step and even if we have to stand some of the best teams in the world, we still know our quality and we’ll try to make it happen”. 

The home heroines of Greece needed only 59 minutes to cruise past Denmark in straight sets (25-14, 25-14, and 25-6) to start out their European campaign with a very encouraging performance. Greece scored 18 aces and killed 10 blocks in a game that was literally one-sided. After storming to the provisional 11:6, the home girls eventually pocketed the first set with the score of 25-14 and that result was repeated in the second section of the game as Greece was anchored by Anthi Vasilantonaki, Olga Strantzali and Anna Kalantatze. In the third set Denmark evidently struggled to display some consistency in reception and Greece’s head coach Dimitris Floros could eventually rest some of the players included in his starting six, but this did not help the opponent side score more than six points in the end. “We got rid of the stress associated with the first match by scoring an easy win. We delivered a good performance, especially in serving, so we can start with the right confidence our preparations for the next match with Azerbaijan” says Greece’s setter Lamprini Konstantinidou. The game was a special present for middle blocker Ioanna Gkountimenko who turned 16 today and received a cake from her teammates at the end of the match.      

The first day of action in Volos was completed with Azerbaijan surprisingly edging Spain 3:2 (16-25, 25-23, 12-25, 25-21, and 15-11). With a couple of aces Spain broke away in the first set and another winning serve by Maria Figueroa sealed the final 25-16. Azerbaijan responded well in the second set going up 14:7 before Nikalina Bashnakova contributed the last point (25-23). Spain then re-asserted its supremacy in set 3 (16:9, 18:10, 25-12) before Yuliya Psanichnykh anchored Azerbaijan in set 4 and a tie-break was called. There Azerbaijan set the pace of the game right from the start (7:3) with the final 15-9 being sealed once more by Bashnakova.   

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