Mulhouse, France, March 1, 2014. Zarechie ODINTSOVO will play in the final of the 2014 CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup - Women! The Russian team left no doubts about that as it shut out its opponent ASPTT MULHOUSE in the return semifinal in France more categorically than it did in the first game at home. After 3:2 in Odintsovo earlier this week, on Saturday evening Zarechie defeated its hosts by 3:0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-23).
The ASPTT MULHOUSE team was ready to delight their fans in a crowded red-colored Palais des Sports, but despite a true collective spirit and some clever collective and individual actions, MULHOUSE never really managed to outplay Zarechie.
In the beginning, ASPTT responded to Anastasia Bavykina’s short and difficult serves with Petya Tsekova and Alina Albu’ attacks into the mouse holes. MULHOUSE resisted and fought bravely, but this was not enough against the strong individuals on the other side of the net, who secured a 25-21 win in the first set.
The second set began like the first one with a score always very tight (5-6). After the time-out (6-8), MULHOUSE came back with a terrific Armelle Faesch in serving (10-9), soon followed by Kristy Jaeckel (13-13) and Iuliia Ferulik (16-15). However, the team from Odintsovo benefited from some weak French defense and, thanks to Natalia Malykh and Anastasia Bavykina, won the second set by the same score - 25-21.
MULHOUSE took the lead at beginning of the third set (8-5) and despite some missed serves managed to extend it (16-10). The home players found some failures in Zarechie’s defense to profit from a less impressive Russian team. But Natalia Malykh and Iuliia Merkulova stayed awake at the net and the Russians hinted at a come-back However, ASPTT once again widened the gap to 23-19, but did not manage to conclude. Malykh served on to bring her team to a match point, converted by Merkulova for 25-23 in the set and 3:0 in the match.
Olga Bukreeva and Natalia Malykh made 14 points each for Zarechie to become the best scorers of the game. Bulgarian Petya Tsekova was ASPTT’s most prolific player with 13 points.
“We faced a very big team from Odintsovo. They tired us psychologically with very good defense. We lost because of the bad handling of easy balls, but it was a volleyball game on a high level,” commented ASPTT head coach Magali Magail after the match.
Click here for more info including detailed stats of the match.
Zarechie’s opponent in the final battle for the trophy will become known on Sunday evening when Turkey’s Besiktas ISTANBUL hosts Poland’s Impel WROCLAW in the other semifinal’s second leg, following a 3:1 away victory in the first.