Estonia tops the charts despite tie-break defeat to neighboring Latvia
2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Men
Rakvere, Estonia, May 26, 2013. Estonia finished their campaign at the first-round World Championship qualifier held this weekend in Rakvere losing a five-setter against their neighbors from Latvia (18-25, 25-16, 19-25, 25-20, and 10-15) but they nevertheless claimed first place in the charts of the group so advancing to the third stage of the qualification process scheduled for early January 2014. In the other match of the day Belarus outplayed Denmark in straight sets (25-19, 25-18, and 25-22) which helped the guys from Minsk secure second place in group and keep their World Championship dream alive via the second-round qualifier coming up in early October.
Latvia started out strong in the match with hosts Estonia grabbing a 5-point lead (12:7) before the second technical time-out in the first set. The home team Estonia could not find a good rhythm while Latvian leader Gundars Celitans was able to put pressure from the serving line and add powerful attacks. In the end the game was fully controlled by the Latvian team in set 1 (25-18). The second set contributed many emotions and turnarounds; Latvia set the pace there (8:6) but Estonia finally found their way into the game playing with great composure leading 16:13 and finishing the set 25-16. Estonia did not stretch that momentum to set 3 where Latvia dictated the action all the way through (7:2, 16:14, and 21:17) pocketing the set quite comfortably at 25-19. 19-year old Robert Täht helped Estonia get back on track in set 4 scoring points and showing good fighting spirit as the home side could take the lead from the start (9:6, 16:11). Things did not change and Estonia managed to force the match to a fifth set (25-20). In set 5 Latvia set the pace (10:4) and kept a good margin (12:6) before closing the game (15-10) and going for a tough win. Gundars Celitans ended the match with 29 points, while Martti Juhkami scored 18 points for the home side.
“It was a 4-set match for us as the pressure was gone at the end of the fourth set. There could have been less serving mistakes on this weekend but in the end everything went well. The third stage will be very enjoyable for us as strong teams are taking part in the competition by then” Estonia's head coach Avo Keel commented.
Belarus secured second place in the group and got the opportunity to continue their World Championship adventure via the second qualification round as they could score their second victory of the tournament by edging Denmark in three sets (25-19, 25-18, and 25-22).
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