Bulgaria and Czech Republic claim their opening matches before going for much anticipated showdown on Saturday
2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Women
Samokov, Bulgaria, January 3, 2014. The home heroines of Bulgaria started their quest for making it to the Final Round of the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship by edging Slovakia the opening game of the qualification tournament that is taking place throughout this weekend at the Arena Samokov. The bronze medalists from the 2013 CEV Volleyball European League beat Slovakia 3:1 (25-13, 25-19, 24-26, and 26-24) to start their home campaign on a high note. Later in the evening, the Czech Republic beat Belarus in straight sets (25-20, 25-15, and 25-18) to confirm that the players around Italian-born head coach Carlo Parisi will be the toughest rival for Bulgaria on the way to the World Champs. The anticipated showdown between these teams is coming up on Saturday at 5:30 pm local time and will most probably determine the winner of the tournament.
As Bulgaria played Slovakia on Friday afternoon, the score remained very close up to the first technical time-out of the opening set (8:7) before Bulgaria opened a small cushion with a series of blocks (12:8). By the time the second technical time-out was called Bulgaria was leading the way 16:9, and by displaying a very solid performance, the local favorites made it 21:12. A time-out asked by Slovak mentor Marek Rojko could not change the course of the game and Bulgaria finished the first set with a terrific 25-13.
Bulgaria showed good tempo also in the early phases of the second set (8:5) and they did not look back widening their lead up to seven points halfway through the set (16:9). The players mentored by Italian head coach Marcello Abbondanza looked in full control of the game and they easily cashed the second set at 25-19.
The third set, on the other hand, followed a much different plot. Slovakia stormed out to a 4:0 lead and after a break asked by Abbondanza Bulgaria responded drawing level at 4 all to only see their opponents move up 8:6 at the first technical time-out. Though they fought with glowing hearts, the home “Lionesses” could not reduce their gap and Slovakia moved the score up to 16:11 at the second mandatory stop. As they were trailing 20:23, Bulgaria got the right push with Tsvetelina Zarkova joining the actions and standing behind the service line. She scored two aces to make it 22:23 but in the end, it was Slovakia to have the upper hand at 26-24.
The fourth set continued with the same trend; the teams were playing point for point and Bulgaria got to the front by the slimmest margin at the first technical time-out. The situation changed at the second mandatory stop where it was Slovakia to set the pace of the game (14:16) and that close race continued up to the very end where this time Bulgaria kept cool to celebrate a 3:1 victory (26-24). Elitsa Vasileva paced Bulgaria in their winning effort with 17 points while Strashimira Filipova added another 14 to the count of the home side. Miroslava Kuciakova and Miroslava Kijakova top scored for Slovakia with 15 and 14 respectively.
In the other match of the day the Czech Republic asserted their intention to turn into Bulgaria’s closest rival for that much wanted spot in the Final Round of the World Champs as the players around Italian head coach Carlo Parisi opened their campaign by routing Belarus in three straight sets (25-20, 25-15, and 25-18). The Czechs caught a flying start going up 7:1 and 8:2 in the first set but Belarus clawed back to make it 15:12 for their opponents shortly before the second technical time-out that was called by the score of 16:14. That good run by the Belarusian players woke up the Czechs who got back control of the operations and cruised to the final 25-20. Both teams struggled in reception in the early phases of the second set where the Czech Republic could nevertheless set the tempo of the game (8:4). The Czechs played relaxed and showed the right self-confidence on their way to a speedy 25-15 and 2:0 lead in sets. Belarus was off quite strong in the third set (3:4); however, the Czechs responded by scoring five straight points to lead 8:4 at the first technical time-out. Even though Belarus could cut their deficit to only two points later on (13:11), the Czechs did not look back anymore and closed the game in straight sets (25-18). Czech star Aneta Havlickova was the best scorer in the game with 21 points while Anastasiya Harelik registered 15 for Belarus in their losing effort.
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