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05/01/2014 19:29
Bulgaria makes it three in a row to claim World Champs berth
2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Women

Samokov, Bulgaria, January 5, 2014. On Sunday Bulgaria completed a clean sweep of their matches at the World Champs qualifier – Pool M in Samokov edging Belarus 3:1 (25-11, 32-34, 25-9, and 25-23) to qualify to the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship in Italy. Though they lost their second set in the competition, the home “Lionesses” made it three in a row as they were paced by Emiliya Nikolova who registered 20 points. Ekaterina Skrabatun and Katsiaryna Silantsyeva paced Belarus in their losing effort with 13 points apiece.
Bulgaria did not wait that long to set the tone of the game opening with an 8:5 lead in the first set; the home heroines easily controlled the game (11:5, 16:7) and comfortably cruised to the final 25-11.
The story of the game changed in the second set where Belarus played with more consistency making things more complicated for the home side. Belarus set the pace at the first technical time-out (8:7) and was up by two points also at the second mandatory stop. The Belarusian players looked much more confident than in the opening set and especially with their good blocks they widened their lead up to four points (19:15). As Bulgaria trailed 19:22, Slavina Koleva joined the game and standing behind the service line she helped her team cut the gap (21:22). However, Belarus piled up three set balls at 24:21 but could not capitalize on this lead as Nikolova powered another comeback from Bulgaria (24:23). Belarus missed a total of six set balls but in the end did show strong nerves to bring it home at 34-32 to tie the score in sets.
The home heroines responded strong with four straight points to open the third set and were up 8:3 at the first technical time-out. They played with much aggressiveness and eventually cruised to a terrific 25-9 to re-assert their intention to win the game and qualify to the World Champs.
However, they could not keep that tempo in the fourth set where Belarus scored four unanswered points before Bulgaria found a way back into the game (6:6). Belarus showed some more good actions to make it 14:10 but Bulgaria fought back after the second technical time-out flipping the charts around (18:16); this paved the way for a very exciting final rush and with their 25-23 and 3:1 victory the “Lionesses” could finally celebrate their qualification to the World Championship.

In the other match of the day the Czech Republic beat Slovakia in straight sets (29-27, 25-12, and 25-21) to end the tournament in second place and keep alive their chances to make the Worlds waiting for the results from the other Pools. Slovakia caught a very promising start going up 7:5 in the opening set; however, the Czechs flipped the charts around already by the first technical time-out (8:7) and they kept control of the operations also at the second with a margin of three (16:13). Still the Slovak players around head coach Marek Rojko woke up and fought their way back to level the score at 17; the final section of the set was really dramatic but in the end the Czech team around Italian head coach Carlo Parisi had the upper hand at the extra time (29-27).
Slovakia opened strong also in the second set (4:3) before the Czech Republic scored five in a row. The Czechs did not lose control of the operations and easily imposed their quality throughout this set (8:4, 16:9) to cash it with the terrific score of 25-12.
The third set followed a similar plot with Slovakia claiming the first rallies before the Czechs got back command of the game (8:3); they even led by six points at the second technical time-out before Rojko changed some players and could propel a possible – but late – comeback by Slovakia. In the end the Czech Republic could cash a straight victory (25-21) to end the tournament on a high note after their shocking 0:3 defeat to Bulgaria on Saturday.

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the matches

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