Serbia and Spain continue their march with third straight win
2013 FIVB Volleyball Men's U21 World Championship - European Qualification
Ivanjica, Serbia, May 9, 2013. Spain – silver medalist from the 2012 European Championship – and the hosts of Serbia are still atop of the tables in Ivanjica after they both scored their third consecutive win in the tournament where a ticket to the 2013 FIVB Volleyball Men’s U21 World Championship is at stake. Spain opened the program on Thursday by routing Slovakia in straight sets (25-9, 25-17, and 25-16) while Serbia followed in the evening with a 3:1 win over Finland (25-18, 25-18, 23-25, and 25-13) to keep a perfect record of three wins in as many games. In the other match on schedule the Czech Republic could celebrate their first win in the tournament by edging Croatia 3:1 (27-25, 25-23, 23-25, and 25-23).
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In the first match of the third day the bronze medalists from last year’s European Championship, Spain, swept away Slovakia in straight sets (25-9, 25-17, and 25-16) in just 64 minutes of play. Juan Manuel Gonzalez of Spain topped the scorers’ chart with 14 points including 3 blocks, while Filip Gavenda scored 9 for Slovakia.
Spain was dominant throughout the whole match. In the first set they allowed only 9 points to their rivals. In the second set Slovakia could show some more resistance but it was enough only for taking 17 points. Led by the unstoppable Juan Manuel Gonzalez, the Spanish side wrapped it up at 25-16 in the third set, maintaining a perfect score in the tournament with three wins in as many matches.
Ricardo Maldonado, head coach of Spain, said: “We played very well in blocking, and we totally controlled the game. We put pressure on the young Slovak players and they could not find their way into the game”.
Top scorer Juan Manuel Gonzalez added: “It is important for us to keep winning, and that is what we did today. We were very efficient in this match”.
Miroslav Palgut, head coach of Slovakia, stressed: “I think we played with too much respect for the Spanish side. They play very fast and we could not respond to this kind of pressure”.
Adam Prielozny, captain of Slovakia: “We respected them too much. They are a great team and they deserved this victory. We could have played better but overall we are satisfied with our performance”.
In the second match of the day the Czech Republic edged Croatia in four sets 3:1 (27-25, 25-23, 23-25, and 25-23) after 118 minutes of play. Croatia’s Uglješa Vujović topped the scorers’ chart with 25 points, while Michal Finger and Petr Sulista scored 18 apiece for the winning side.
Croatia started with a different line-up in comparison with the previous matches. However, the newcomers played very well and Croatia was in front for the most time in the first set. Croatia led 20:14, and they even reached a set point at 24:20, but the persistent Czech team would not let go. They won 5 points in a row and completely turned the score in their favor (25:24). Even though they didn’t make the most of the first set ball, ultimately they ended the set at 27-25 to take the lead in the match.
In the second set the Czech Republic got off to an early 8:3, and completely controlled the game all the way until 16:13 at the second technical time-out. After the break, Croatia started to be more aggressive, and they came to close the gap to just one point (15:16). However, the Czechs would not allow any surprises, getting away quickly to a comfortable lead (20:15). Once again Croatia reacted and narrowed the gap to 19:20. In the finishing stage, the Czech Republic was more focused and wrapped up the second set at 25-23, mainly thanks to powerful serves by Petr Sulista.
In the beginning of the third set Croatia reacted with an early 5:2 lead. They successfully maintained the gap through the middle stage of the set, when the Czechs reached the tie at 14:14. After a great battle in the remainder of the set, Croatia edged their rivals 25-23 for 1:2 overall.
In the fourth set Croatia started by taking an early 7:4 lead, but the Czech Republic soon reached the tie at 11:11. At the second technical break the scoreboard showed 16:13 for the Czech side. They maintained a 3-point advantage, and by the end of the set the lead was further extended (24:19). Croatia tried to fight back after scoring 4 points in a row, but Michal Finger ended their hopes with a powerful spike for the final 25-23 and 3:1 in sets.
Petr Juda, head coach of the Czech Republic: “We had some ups and downs in this match. When we reach the last and deciding stage of the set we struggle to finish it and that is something we must work on”.
Pavel Bartos, setter in the Czech team: “Today we played better than Croatia and we deserved this victory”.
Milorad Krunić, head coach of Croatia: “We knew that the Czechs are a good team. The first two rounds they played with Spain and Serbia, so their record in the standings wasn’t reflecting their actual potential. I rested some key players in this match because I wanted to have them fresh in the last two matches. Maybe we could have done more with them playing, but it was my decision and I believe that it was the right choice”.
Uglješa Vujović, Croatia’s opposite: “We showed that we are capable of competing with the strongest teams in this tournament. Today we played with the second line-up and we performed very well. This team has potential and we will continue to improve, I am sure”.
In the last match of the day Serbia overpowered Finland in four sets 3:1 (25-18, 25-18, 23-25, and 25-13) after 98 minutes of play. Serbia’s Mihajlo Stanković topped the scorers’ chart with 16 points, while Tommi Siirilä scored 11 for the Finns. Mr. Zoran Todorović, Lord Mayor of Arilje, and Mr. Slobodan Čolović, Director of “Arilje” Hall of Sports, attended the match among 550 other Volleyball fans in the stands.
Serbia started the match furiously going up 7:1. However, Finland managed to recover picking up the pace and closing the gap to 7:10. Serbia reacted right away, and by the second technical time-out extended the lead to 16:11. After the break, the lead of the hosts only got bigger (21:14) and Serbia routinely wrapped it up at 25-18 to take a 1:0 lead in sets.
Serbia got to an early 8:3 lead in the opening stages of the second set. Once again Finland managed to narrow the gap to 3 points of difference at 11:14, but they could not do much more as Serbia went to the second technical break leading 16:11. This part of the match finished yet again with the same result of 25-18, and the hosts doubled up their lead.
In the third set the crowd saw a fairly matched encounter. Finland went to the first technical break leading 8:7, and after the break the Finns extended their lead to 13:9 and then to 16:13. Serbia managed to reach a one point deficit at 16:17 but Finland quickly responded going up 20:16. Once again the hosts narrowed the gap (20:21), but then again the Finnish team knew how to react and got off to a 24:21. Finland managed to cash only their third set point, but the job was done and the Serbian lead was split in half.
In the fourth set Serbia got serious and aggressive. The host quickly went up 8:3 and then 16:5. The discouraged Finnish team could not resist anymore, and the Serbian players stormed to a massive 25-13 for a 3:1 win.
Siniša Reljić, head coach of Serbia: “I had warned my players about Finland. We started to lose focus in the third set and it backfired. However, in the fourth set we demonstrated that we are a much better team and everything went well in the end”.
Mihajlo Stanković, Serbia’s receiver and top scorer: “We were very confident in the first two sets. Then we started to make some unnecessary errors because we got too relaxed. In the end, everything went well and we are happy with another victory”.
Pekka Lahtinen, head coach of Finland: “I am satisfied despite the loss today. Serbia had a lot of aces in this match and it is very difficult to play against such an inspired team. Yesterday I was complaining about my setter, but today he was the best player of the team, and I am extremely proud of him”.
Mauri Kurppa, team captain of Finland: “We struggled with the reception of Serbia’s spin serves. We were unable to control them, and that was our biggest problem in this match”.