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17/09/2016 23:37
Road to #EuroVolleyM – Dutchmen and Czechs finish first round robin on three wins
2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men

Luxembourg, September 17, 2016. Two out of six second-round qualifiers to the 2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Men came to an end on Saturday in Turkey and Romania but nothing is decided yet about the eventual progression of one or the other team to the EuroVolley Finals since a second round robin tournament is set to follow next week in each pool. The Netherlands and the Czech Republic claimed three victories in as many matches they contested in Pool E and F, respectively to get the right edge for the second round robin that they will contest next week on home soil. As for the remaining pools, Germany and Montenegro in Pool A, Portugal in Pool B, as well as Belgium and Slovakia in Pool C and D respectively added a second win to their record before another round of matches follows on Sunday.   

Pool A

Germany vs. Switzerland 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-16)

Germany opened the programme of the second competition day in Podgorica with a comfortable victory in their matchup with Switzerland. However, the Swiss underdogs set the tempo of the game for most of the opening set before Germany stepped up their efforts, claiming a three-point lead which they maintained through to the end (25-22). Germany played a lot more relaxed but at the same time also with more energy in the second set, thus leading from start to end and securing a compelling 25-16 win. Germany continued with their solid performance also in the third set – rallying to another 25-16 win to secure their second victory of the weekend.

Marcus Böhme, team captain of Germany: “We expected to win pretty easily, but we were kind of caught by surprise in the first set. We recovered and found our rhythm, so the problems we had in the first set gradually disappeared. The most important thing is that we won by 3-0.”

Vital Heynen, head coach of Germany: “We expected this victory but like Montenegro did yesterday we also struggled in the first set of our match with Switzerland. We improved along the way and eventually won. The most important thing for us now is to regroup and to focus on tomorrow’s match with Montenegro.”

Spain vs. Montenegro 2-3 (25-22, 24-26, 16-25, 25-23, 13-15)

Montenegro celebrated on Saturday their second victory of the weekend but were made work hard for it. The first set was close from the start and a couple of mistakes made by the hosts paved the way for a 23-20 Spanish lead which resulted in a 25-22 set win for the visitors. Spain set the pace of the game for most of the second set leading by two, three points and even by five at 11-6, but Montenegro slowly but surely fought back and eventually won it by 26-24. The hosts improved their performance even more in the third set which they won at a canter (25-16). Montenegro were close to finishing the match in four sets, but they made some easy mistakes towards the end and Spain cruised to a 25-23 win that called for the tie-break. Montenegro regrouped there and after leading by 7-2, they resisted a Spanish comeback to finish it all off at 15-13 and claim their second victory before a partisan home crowd.

Vojin Cacic, team captain of Montenegro: “We knew that this match was going to be tough, and so it was. It was a close battle for the first two sets but what really matters now is that we won in the end. Now it’s time to look forward to our match with Germany. From what we have seen here, they have their weaknesses and we must be able to use these to our advantage.”

Aleksandar Minic, player of Montenegro: “Even well before the start of this tournament we knew that the match with Spain was going to be a tough one. They are a good team and even when they trail by four, five points, they always find a way to fight their way back. What really matters to me is the final result; we won and this gives us some positive energy ahead of the match with Germany.”

Pool B

Finland vs. Sweden 3-1 (21-25, 25-14, 26-24, 25-21)

Finland and Sweden crossed swords in the first match of the second competition day in Pool B in Denmark. Sweden had won their first match and Finland had lost theirs, so already a lot was at stake for the Finnish team. After a well-played and bravely fought battle, Finland emerged victorious by 3-1.

Sweden built on their great game from Friday, and the head coach of Finland Tuomas Sammelvuo was forced to call a time-out when his team trailed 7-10 in the first set. All even at 19-all, Sweden had the upper hand and found a golden hand in David Pettersson who scored an ace to claim the first set for the Swedes at 25-21.

Having lost their first four sets in a row in this European Championship qualifier, Finland needed a game changer. The turnaround came as Sweden took a 9-8 lead in the second set. The Finns came together as a team, found their flow and ironed out all aspects in their game making it 18-11. From there it was only a matter of time before the first Finnish set win became reality (25-14).

At this point, it was time for the star players to shine and take responsibility. The third set in Humlehøjhallen became a duel between Sweden’s Marcus Nilsson and Finland’s Olli-Pekka Ojansivu. Again and again the two main scorers displayed their immense skill set in spiking, serving and blocking. When it really mattered at 23-all, Ojansivu was the one to shine contributing to a 26-24 set win for the Finns.

The drama reached its climax in the fourth set as the two teams continued their close contest. No more than two points separated Sweden and Finland all the way to 21-21. At this point Finland had the best control of their nerves and scored four points in a row closing the set 25-21 and the match 3-1.

Tuomas Sammelvuo, head coach of Finland: “Let me make it clear, we did not expect an easy win today against Sweden. And they proved why! Sweden played a good match, and with Marcus Nilsson on the other side of the net you can never feel safe.

“In the first two sets a few episodes made the difference. We focussed on staying in the match and we needed to keep confident, knowing that we could compete with our opponents both physically and mentally. The team found their resources and came together. This was an important win for us.”

Johan Isacsson, head coach of Sweden: “I think we played a really good match. We executed our tactics close to perfection for most of the match. But as the game evolved, we started making too many unforced errors, and then you quickly end up losing.

“I am really satisfied with my players who played a really good match against a really good team. I have seen some new things in my team in the lead up to these qualification matches that made me and the guys believe in our chances.”

Portugal vs. Denmark 3-1 (23-25, 25-23, 28-26, 25-15)

The underdogs from Denmark defended their honour in the second match of the day in Pool B against Portugal. The home heroes pushed the pre-favourites to find their very best before Portugal could claim their second 3-1 win of the weekend.

The Danish tactic was clear from the very first rally of the match: the hosts would put pressure with their serve all the time. The Danes executed that to perfection in front of an ecstatic crowd who watched their heroes completely changed compared to Friday’s match with Sweden. As the tactic demanded, Mads Ditlevsen closed the first set with an ace 25-23 to Denmark.

Denmark continued to use their serve with almost no mistakes in the second set. The game remained close up to 19-all, before Portugal had three set points on their hands at 24-21. Denmark survived the first two before coach Jose Francisco Dos Santos’s players restored the balance in the match (25-23).

No doubt Denmark had their minds set for more success in this match, when taking a 12-6 lead in the third set. But Portugal fought bravely and by pushing their serve more, they put Denmark under pressure and completed their comeback at 18-all. Denmark survived two set points when trailing 22-24, had one of their own, before Portugal converted their fourth set point to 28-26.

Two close set losses in a row were too much for Denmark to cope with. Portugal blasted away from the very first rally of the fourth set (14-5) and never looked back until they closed the set 25-15 and the match 3-1.  

Portugal top scorer Alexandre Ferreira (30 points): “I think we had the same problem as yesterday where we played too light. That is also due to Denmark who played a great game at home. We are lucky that we turned things around in the end of the sets.

“Denmark have nothing to lose and they have some good individual players. They try everything and sometimes with success. When we manage to relax more, our game plan works better and the result comes easier. As we work ourselves into the match, we start to serve better and have a better side-out.

“We have our eyes set on the target, that is first place in the pool. We know we can achieve this, but we also know we have to work hard for it. It will not be easy. Tomorrow we have to make our mark and beat Sweden to secure the best possible position before the second round follows next week.”

Mikael Trolle, head coach of Denmark: “We played a lot better than yesterday. Our serve was just as hard as we could have dreamed of and we were stable in our side-out. In general, we were very well prepared for Portugal, but still have our difficulties executing.

“I must give huge credit to the entire team. This is a young group of players who still lack some experience against a Portuguese team with many experienced players from big clubs. We are very proud of our performance and very disappointed with the result.”

Pool C

Ukraine vs. Belgium 2-3 (23-25, 21-25, 25-21, 25-22, 13-15)

Belgium remained the only undefeated team in Pool C after two matches, outlasting Ukraine 3-2 (25-23, 25-21, 21-25, 22-25, 15-13) in the northern Greek city of Kozani.

It looked like it was going to be a straightforward win for Belgium, when they took a two-set lead over Ukraine, with the Red Dragons poised for their second straight-sets win in as many days. It was nothing but straightforward as Ukraine brought their unforced errors (31 in the first three sets) under control and fought back to take the third and overturn a 10-5 deficit in the fourth to force a tie-break. Much to the delight of a handful of travelling fans of theirs, Belgium did manage to pull together in the tie-break and rallied for four straight points at 6-6, breaking away 10-6. They kept Ukraine at bay (as the latter closed in from 14-11 to 14-13), before Tomas Rousseaux got the desperately needed side-out with a hit off the top of the Ukrainian block.

Belgium found their match in blocking and attacking, as Ukraine totally dominated play at the net. Again Belgium had to rely on their opponent’s unforced errors (38 to 25) to get the job done, despite Dmytro Teryomenko's incredible 16 kills in 19 swings.

Belgium coach Dominique Baeyens had praise for his opponents in the post-game interviews: “Ukraine are a good team with good potential, but we are satisfied with our two wins and don’t look at points at this stage.”

The Ukrainians, on the other hand, were a bit disappointed by the final score. “Belgium are a better team, but I think we deserved something more from this game,” said Ukraine libero Pylyp Karmash. “This a great experience at this level for us.”

Republic of Moldova vs. Greece 1-3 (25-22, 27-29, 18-25, 21-25)

Greece came back from the brink after dropping the first set and struggling to win the second, as the hosts of Pool C edged Moldova 3-1, thrilling the 2,000-strong enthusiastic crowd that turned out to support them. Moldova remain the only winless team in the pool after two rounds of play.

The visitors got off to a cracking start to the game in the first set, dominating play at the net in both attacking and blocking. But with coach Sotirios Drikos shifting his team around in the second, Greece did react - though still needed to cancel three Moldova set balls before tying the score and denying the visitors a two-set lead.

After dropping the third, Moldova kept up with Greece in the score until 17-17 in the fourth, but the home side broke away for 21-17 and sailed on to wrap up the game with a 25-21 win.

The entrance of Georgios Tzoumakas midway through the second set and his 16/26 attacking and top-scoring 19 points did a lot to change the flow of the game - as did the substitution of setters, with Konstantinos Stivachtis coming in for Athanasios Terzis earlier in the game.

“We tried to avoid errors, but we played a very safe game and didn’t engage our opponents,” said Drikos after the match. “We corrected this after the second set and today we managed to showcase some of our capabilities.”

The opposite camp was somewhat disappointed at the outcome of the game: “We started well and could have taken a little more out of this match, but we were up against a powerful opponent,” said Moldova captain Dmitrii Bahov.

Pool D

Croatia vs. Israel 2-3 (25-19, 25-21, 22-25, 18-25, 16-18)

Croatia and Israel were both vying for their first victory in Poprad and Israel claimed an early 7-3 lead in the first set. However, Croatia’s superstar Igor Omrcen showed glimpses of his class and after leading 18-10, Croatia comfortably claimed the opening set 25-19. The score was close in the first half of the second set, but a few Israeli mistakes paved the way for a 17-14 Croatian lead. Israel came back and levelled the score at 18-all with their experienced team captain Alexander Shafranovich standing behind the service line but Omrcen responded promptly, thus helping Croatia take the second set as well (25-21). Though Croatia cruised to a 6-1 lead in the third set, Israel did not stop fighting, came back and eventually won this period 25-22. Israel controlled the fourth set from start to end (25-18) and as a result, a tie-break was to be played to determine the eventual winners of this match. The fifth set was a close race, with Croatia leading 12-10 before Israel came back to 13-all. In the end Israel completed their fabulous comeback from two sets down (18-16) to celebrate their first victory in Poprad.
Igor Simuncic, head coach of Croatia: “We have a team which is experienced enough to finish a game like this one. We had a comfortable advantage but my players thought a way too early that we had already won this match. This is something you cannot afford with any team in Europe nowadays, you just can’t win without playing as good as you can.”
Grzegorz Rys, head coach of Israel: “We are very happy, because we just won our first match here. We started very bad, but we improved as the match progressed. As everybody saw, we are very motivated, we play with heart and fight until the end of the match. Croatia were probably thinking that after winning two sets they would have easily taken the third as well, but it was our strong serve that helped us come back in the match. We played much better today than yesterday and it was obvious that after a bad start we did not lose our motivation. Today we were helped also by the players who came in from the bench and it is important that every player can help us and we do not rely only on the starting six.”
Alexander Shafranovich, team captain of Israel: “Croatia played very well in the first and second sets, Omrcen was unstoppable and he scored a lot of points. However, we kept calm and believed that we could do something to change the course of this match. We served well, they had problems in reception and slowly but surely we imposed our rule. We have our first victory from this tournament and of course we are very happy with that.”

Latvia vs. Slovakia 0-3 (25-27, 21-25, 21-25)

Slovakia claimed an early 4-1 lead in the first set and kept it almost intact at 13-11 before Latvia fought back and levelled the score at 16-all. The visitors edged ahead at 19-18 but Slovakia turned the score around and capitalised on their third set ball thanks to their captain Emanuel Kohut (27-25). Latvia put quite some pressure with their serve in the early stages of the second set and as a result, they claimed a 12-10 lead. However, Slovakia stormed back to lead 15-13 and eventually won the second set 25-21. The hosts controlled the third set right from the start claiming a three-point lead before Latvia drew level at 13-all. However, as soon as Slovakian setter Branislav Skladany started using opposite Milan Bencz more intensively, the latter became just unstoppable and Slovakia sealed their second straight-sets win in as many matches they have contested in Poprad this weekend.
Raimonds Vilde, head coach of Latvia: “Congratulations to the Slovakian team. They were better and deserved to win. We are not ready to compete at this level yet, and Slovakia have more experienced players. We played really good yesterday and maybe we thought that everything would go just as easy. That’s probably one of the reasons of our loss. We need experience and experience you can get from losses, not from wins. Slovakia were better, more stable, more calm and they deserved to win.”
Miroslav Palgut, head coach of Slovakia: “This is the kind of result we wanted and we got it. We worked very hard, because Latvia are a dangerous opponent. I am satisfied with our performance, even if we made some mistakes. We have six points from two matches, but we have still four matches in this pool and we need to work hard in every single match.”
Marek Mikula, outside spiker of Slovakia: “It was tough match, because Latvia played very good. We have two wins, six points and we are happy. Our fans helped us today, they cheered us on all the time and the atmosphere was great. I think that the first set decided the match, because Latvia pushed us with their good serve and we had problems in reception. We played more relaxed from the second set onwards.”

Pool E

Turkey vs. Belarus 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-22)

The hosts completed their duties on home soil with a 3-0 victory over Belarus. Both teams started the match by making a few mistakes, and Turkey trailed 5-8. Belarus asked for their first time-out at 12-all and claimed a three-point lead shortly afterwards (16-13). However, after the second technical break, Turkey controlled the game with ease and a series of attacks killed by Baturalp Burak Güngör sealed the eventual 25-23 win for the home side. The second set was a very close race with either team being able to break away in the score until Turkey claimed a two-point lead at 19-17. A Belarusian time-out did not produce the expected results, with Turkey scoring another two points before finishing the set at 25-18. Turkey dominated the third set from start to end (8-4, 16-8) and even though Belarus attempted a late comeback, the hosts were able to hold on to their early advantage to finish the match in three sets.

Ulas Kiyak, team captain of Turkey: “We wanted to win all of the three matches here at home but two out of three is not a bad result. I want to thank the fans for their support. We are confident that we can win the three matches coming up next week in the Netherlands.”

Emanuele Zanini, head coach of Turkey: “We enjoyed a huge support from the crowd and I would like to thank the fans for the energy they gave us. We were able to edge a strong Belarusian team. Our goal was to win three matches here but I think we can make up for yesterday’s loss when we play again next week in the Netherlands.”

Kiryl Krasneuski, player of Belarus: “It was a good game and the atmosphere was great. I am nevertheless sad because we lost. We did stand a chance, but Turkey played really good tonight, especially with their serve and reception. They certainly deserved to win. We will try to improve and to take our chance next week in the Netherlands.”

The Netherlands vs. Austria 3-1 (30-32, 25-20, 25-20, 25-21)

The start of the match was really close with the Netherlands leading 8-7 and 16-15 at the first and second technical time-outs of the opening set. The Dutch coach asked for his first time-out when his team trailed 18-20, and the Netherlands eventually levelled the score at 22-all. It was a very tight money time but after the two teams failed to capitalise on a few chances, Austria eventually won the set 32-30.
The Oranjes claimed an 8-6 lead in the second set as their block and defence worked pretty good. They kept this advantage also later in the set (16-14) before they used some Austrian mistakes to restore the balance in the match (25-20). History repeated itself in set 3 with the Netherlands leading 8-7 and 13-9 before Austria closed in at 13-12 to prompt a Dutch time-out. This produced the desired results as the Oranjes resumed their march and won the set again by 25-20. The Dutch leadership in the match was no longer to be questioned as the Dutchmen claimed 8-4 and 16-11 leads in the fourth set before finishing it all off at 25-21 to celebrate their third victory in as many matches they contested this weekend.

Gido Vermeulen, head coach of the Netherlands: “We had a really long match yesterday with Turkey and as a result we started a bit slowly. Austria, on the other hand, played very good, especially in the first set, where they pressured us with their serve. After losing the first set we re-organised our game and controlled the remaining of the match, deservedly winning because we were the better team.”

Michael Warm, head coach of Austria: “We started out really well and we did a good job in the first set. However, after that we started making mistakes at blocking and in reception as well. These were crucial in determining our loss. We made more and more mistakes and as a result our chances in the match got smaller and smaller, that is easy to explain.”

Pool F

Former Y.R. of Macedonia vs. Estonia 2-3 (28-26, 22-25, 23-25, 27-25, 11-15)

In a remake of the 2016 CEV Volleyball European League final match, Estonia edged the Former Y.R. of Macedonia 3-2 on the last competition day in Craiova, Romania.

The Former Y.R. of Macedonia started the first set in the best way with their team captain Nikola Gjorgiev scoring time and again to contribute to 8-7 and 16-13 leads at the first and second technical time-outs. Estonia responded with good blocks by Renee Teppan and levelled the score at 21-all before Gjorgiev closed the set 28-26 for the European League silver medallists.

Estonia improved the quality of their performance in the second set with outside spiker Keith Pupart and opposite Teppan causing much of the damage. Their opponents relied mostly on Gjorgiev and on middle blocker Gjoko Josifov to keep the score close but towards the end of the set Estonia claimed a small advantage which they were able to hold on to with the help of Teppan and Robert Täht (25-22).

Teppan’s attacks and the massive blocks killed by Ardo Kreek paved the way for Estonia to lead 8-4 and 16-8 at the first and second technical time-outs of set 3. Their opponents did not seem able to respond to that ‘storm’ until Gjorgiev found a way to close in. However, Estonia’s block worked just fine as Kreek and Täht combined their efforts to produce a 25-23 set win for the guys from the Baltic country.

Gjorgiev and Josifov set the tempo for the Former Y.R. of Macedonia in the fourth set, and the European League silver medallists controlled the game almost from start to end of the set (8-6, 16-13). Though Estonia fought back with the help of Kreek and Täht, Gjorgiev was not to stop and the fourth set ended 27-25 the Former Y.R. of Macedonia’s way.

As the actions resumed in the tie-break, it was again time for Teppan and Täht to shine and to produce a 15-11 win that sealed Estonia’s second victory of the weekend.

Czech Republic vs. Romania 3-0 (25-13, 25-17, 25-21)

The Czech Republic claimed a third straight victory in Pool F to cement their first place at the end of the first of two round robin tournaments.

The Czechs looked extremely focussed and their solid reception helped deliver an overall supreme performance. The attacks killed by opposite Michal Finger and outside spiker Adam Bartos literally destroyed the Romanian defence. The Czechs claimed 8-3 and 16-6 leads at the first and second technical time-outs and even a late Romanian surge propelled by opposite Laurentiu Lica could not prevent the home side from losing the first set by a landslide 25-13.

Finger and Bartos continued to set the tempo of the game for the Czechs also in the second set. This time the Czech Republic extended their lead from 8-7 to 16-8 as Romania were not able to find a way to stand so much pressure. Bartos put an end to the second set at 25-17 to double the Czech lead in the game.  

The course of the match did not change in the third set either – with the Czech Republic comfortably leading at the first and second technical time-outs (8-4, 16-8). Outside spiker Donovan Dzavoronok delivered a superb performance at this stage and even though Romania tried to put up a fight with the help of their second opposite Gabriel Cherbeleata, the Czechs remained in full control up until the end of the match (25-21).

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