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12/05/2013 23:00
Estonia writes history by qualifying for junior worlds for second time
2013 FIVB Volleyball Men's U21 World Championship - European Qualification

Sofia, Bulgaria, May 12, 2013. It was history in its making on Sunday at “Hristo Botev” sports hall in Bulgaria’s capital city as Estonia edged Israel in three straight sets (25-19, 25-17, and 25-13) to claim their fourth consecutive win and qualify – for the second time after having done so in 1999 – to the FIVB Volleyball Men’s U21 World Championship that this year is set to take place in late August in Ankara and Izmir, Turkey. In the last match on schedule – that before the start of the tournament was supposed to assign that much desired ticket to the Worlds – Germany cruised past the hosts of Bulgaria in straight sets too (25-15, 25-23, and 25-20) to finish second in the group.  

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Estonia looked extremely motivated right from the start of their last game in the competition while Israel was still searching for their first win in the tournament. Estonia performed strong, especially in attack, to move up 8:3 by the first technical time-out while Israel was evidently struggling, looking particularly weak in reception. After a time-out asked by their head coach Jacob Herchko, the Israelis fought their way back to slightly cut the gap by scoring three consecutive points. However, with a good combination of strong attacks and solid blocks, Estonia could continue setting the pace of the game (16:10); after a short drop of their concentration and a break asked by their mentor Urmas Tali, the Estonian guys got back on track, played with great determination and finished the opening set at 25-19. After a close start, Estonia moved to the front also in set 2 (8:4) anchored by their opposite player and helped by the poor reception displayed by the Israelis widened the gap to 12:5. Though Israel gradually stepped up the quality of their game, Estonia was still up by 5 points at the second technical time-out and eventually brought it home at 25-17 with an ace by Robert Täht. Estonia started out strong also in set 3 with Renee Teppan scoring four in a row to force the Israeli head coach into an early time-out. Estonia was up 8:4 at the first technical time-out and via some more powerful attacks could open up an impressive margin (16:8) halfway through the set. Showing great motivation and quality the Estonian guys cruised to the final 25-13 whereby they eventually pocketed their ticket to the World Championship.

In the other match of the day Germany and Bulgaria played for second place in the group, something they definitely had not reckoned with before the start of the tournament. Germany was able to catch the better start (8:6) and gradually increased their lead up to 7 points showing good attacks and excellent serving. After trailing 9:16 at the second technical time-out, Bulgaria came back to the court very motivated to change the course of the game but Germany did not agree with that scenario and rapidly cruised to the provisional 1:0 in sets (25-15). After a very close start with Bulgaria up by the narrowest margin at the first technical time-out, Germany got back control of the game (16:12) before Bulgaria stormed back to cut the gap to a minimum, doing so twice (17:16 and 20:19). The teams made many mistakes in the deciding final rush but Germany could show some more composure to go for the 2:0 (25-23). Though the players found it difficult to find the right motivation for the last game of the tournament – with the ticket to the Worlds already gone to Estonia – Germany’s offense line kept on scoring (8:6) and gradually widened the lead (13:8). By the second technical time-out Germany still had a margin of four but Bulgaria could fire back and level the score at 17 all. Still that was the last rush for the home side as Germany found back their best play (23:18) and finished the game in straight sets (25-20) to settle for second place in the final standing of the group.    

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