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16/09/2016 21:39
Six second-round women’s European qualifiers up and running
2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Women

Luxembourg, September 16, 2016. As many as six second-round qualifiers to the 2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women are taking place this weekend – with the first of two round robin tournaments on schedule in each pool. The eventual winners of these qualifiers will secure their progression to the EuroVolley Final Round taking place next year in Azerbaijan and Georgia. Montenegro were the first team to celebrate a victory on Friday afternoon as they cruised to a 3-1 win in their matchup with Romania in Pool E. All of the pre-favourite teams lived up to the expectations, with the only tie-breaker contested in Brno (Pool F) where Belarus came back from two sets down to edge Slovenia. 

Austria vs. Ukraine 0-3 (24-26, 13-25, 13-25)

The first set of the opening match in Yuzhny was a close race. Inna Molodtsova scored the first point of the match with a crosscourt and Ukraine claimed an early three-point lead before Austria drew level at 5-all. After this, the teams exchanged the lead back and forth, before Ukraine claimed a two-point margin at 23-21 and 24-22. However, Nikolina Maros helped Austria erase two Ukrainian set balls while standing behind the serving line. Ukrainian coach Gariy Yegiazarov asked for a time-out and it paid dividends – since shortly afterwards Hanna Kyrychenko finished the set 26-24 off with two block-outs.

The course of the match changed quite dramatically in the second set. OIena Novgorodchenko opened proceedings with a series of aces for 3-0. After that it was Tetyana Kozlova who started ‘bombarding’ the Austrian defence (12-1). Molodtsova eventually scored the last point (25-13) with a block-out.

Ukraine set the pace of the game from start to end of the third set. Karyna Yurchenko, who on Friday made her debut with the Ukrainian senior national team, finished it all off at 25-13 for the home side.

Srna Markovic, player of Austria: “We played very well in the first set but Ukraine is a better team than Austria and they showed this in the second and third sets. We must be more aggressive with our serve and offensive play.”

Svetlana Ilic, coach of Austria: “I congratulate our opponent on this victory and my team for what they showed in the first set but a very experienced Ukrainian team showed us what modern Volleyball is all about – good serve with good blocking and defence.”

Nadiia Kodola, team captain of Ukraine: “Thank you to our fans for their support. We want to play as good as we can, so that is why we probably started a bit nervous.”

Gariy Yegiazarov, coach of Ukraine: “Congratulations to the Austrian team, because my team found quite some resistance in the first set. We raised our level in the second, putting more pressure with our serve, and it obviously paid dividends.”

Italy vs. Latvia 3-0 (25-12, 25-15, 25-6)

Italy’s best scorer from the Rio 2016 Olympics, Paola Egonu, set the tone of the match early on with some powerful hits from the back row. Italy played with confidence whilst Latvia gave away as many as eight points on their own mistakes. The Azzurre claimed 8-4 and 16-9 leads at the first and second technical time-outs, before closing the first set 25-12.
The second set was more balanced. Italy claimed the lead after Valentina Tirozzi scored by means of a Latvian block-out. Caterina Bosetti did the same in the following rally and an ace by Tirozzi widened Italy’s lead to 12-9. After that, Latvia could not pose a threat anymore and the set finished at 25-15 Italy’s way.
The first half of the third set became some kind of a nightmare for Latvia as Italy scored 12 points in a row (12-0) – and this resulted in a massive 25-6 win for the Azzurre whose coach Cristiano Lucchi could use all of the players on the roster.

Inese Jursone, team captain of Latvia: “We had ups and downs in this match. I think the long trip somehow affected the quality of our performance.”

Janis Leitis, coach of Latvia: “For us to play with Italy is a big challenge because Italy is a country with such long tradition in Volleyball, they actually are one of the world’s Volleyball Meccas. My players haven’t enough experience when it comes to perform at this level. We played pretty good in some moments but the level of the team standing on the other side of the net was far too high. Our main problem is with the reception; if this does not work, there is no way we can execute our game plan.”

Valentina Tirozzi, team captain of Italy: “This competition is very important for our team and that’s why the first match was very important too. Every player was fully focussed on the match and I think we did a good job today. We like playing here at Olymp sports complex, it is a very nice venue.”

Cristiano Lucchi, coach of Italy: “Our goal is to win the pool and that’s why every match is very important for us, not only those against Ukraine.”

Pool B

Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Spain 0-3 (18-25, 17-25, 15-25)

Spain caught a perfect start to their European campaign in Bordeaux. They easily recorded a 3-0 win in their matchup with Bosnia and Herzegovina, scoring as many as 11 aces throughout the match. Bosnia and Herzegovina soon found themselves under pressure and never found a way to recover. Maria Segura and Jessica Rivero top scored for Spain with 17 and 16 points respectively to lead the team towards a compelling 3-0 victory.

Pascual Saurin, head coach of Spain: “I am happy with this victory. The first match of such a tournament is always not easy to play and I am delighted with the way we performed and the result we achieved. The feelings are good. We did a good job with our serve and this definitely made the difference in the end. Now we are entirely focussed on tomorrow’s match with Belgium who are the heavy favourites of this tournament.”

France vs. Belgium 1-3 (20-25, 26-24, 17-25, 23-25)

In the second match of the opening day in Bordeaux, France delighted a home crowd of 800 fans even though in the end the hosts could not edge the Yellow Tigers from Belgium. Both teams showed their outstanding set of skills and the four sets they contested were all equally close and dramatic. However, the experience of the Belgians made the difference, especially with France giving points away on many easy mistakes towards the end of each set, and especially in the fourth where the Bleues were close to extending the match to a tie-break.

France coach Magali Magail took nevertheless many positives from this match: “Belgium have the best team in the pool; we showed a good performance, so we have to remain focussed and now concentrate on the match with Bosnia and Herzegovina coming up tomorrow.”

Pool C

Finland vs. Poland 0-3 (19-25, 16-25, 21-25)

Poland showed their dominance from the beginning of the match and claimed an early lead at the first technical time-out (8-2). Finland woke up after the break, and reduced their gap to only one point (19-20), but after this Poland scored five in a row to win the opening set 25-19.

The second set followed a similar plot, with the score remaining close for longer, but Poland accelerated towards the money time, this resulting in a commanding 25-16 win.

Finland fought hard in the third set, and they even edged ahead at the second technical time-out. However, Poland regrouped and imposed their class and experience to cruise to a 25-21 win and with it secure a 3-0 victory to start their European campaign with.

Tapio Kangasniemi, head coach of Finland: “I am not totally satisfied, especially because we lost the match 0-3. We could not push them as hard as we wanted. Today, the Polish players were very strong in attack.”

Jacek Nawrocki, head coach of Poland: “We wanted to approach this match with the necessary care and focus. We knew indeed that Finland have progressed a lot lately. We were a little nervous but we prepared for this match with a lot of care and attention.”

Hungary vs. Estonia 3-1 (25-19, 25-22, 16-25, 25-11)

The match started with Eszter Nagy’s block, but Estonia could turn the score around pretty quickly. The game was balanced, however, after 5-5, Hungary claimed a three-point lead and could hold on to it up until the end (25-19).

The second set was a close affair in its early stages as well but after the first technical time-out, Hungary had a three-point advantage. Rita Molcsányi and Gréta Szakmáry showed some incredible saves, and Dóra Horváth killed some spectacular attacks. The last point of the set was secured by Edina Dobi (25-22).

Hungary slowed their pace down in the third set, and Estonia led by six points thanks to their good blocks. Hungary’s reception kind of collapsed and Estonia took full advantage of this to cash the third set by a landslide 25-16.

Hungary secured a three-point lead at the beginning of the fourth set before extending it to six. The Hungarian block was working just fine and Rita Liliom hit some aces in the middle. The last point of the game was claimed by Dóra Horváth, who was the best player of this match (25-11) scoring as many as 22 points for the home side.

Jan De Brandt, head coach of Hungary: “We are always a bit nervous in the first match, but it was some kind of an obligation to win this one. Towards the end of the second set, we had some problems to finalise our attacks. In the third set, we could not finish a few points. I changed a little bit the rotation before the start of the fourth set, and after this, it was a quite easy game.”

Marko Mett, head coach of Estonia: “Rita Liliom and Edina Dobi delivered a great performance for Hungary, they are the key players of this team. They played at a higher level than us. We have never played against a team as good as Hungary before coming here.”

Pool D

Slovakia vs. Croatia 0-3 (12-25, 15-25, 18-25)

Croatia lived up to their status of pre-favourites setting the tempo right from the start of the match (4-0) and with the serves of Ana Grbac, the blocks killed by their captain Maja Poljak and by Ema Strunjak and the spikes of Samanta Fabris, they controlled the game up until the end for a massive 25-12 win.
As they looked self-confident and relaxed, Croatia played with the same quality and intensity also in the second and third sets, thereby cashing a well-deserved 3-0 win which bodes well for the remainder of the weekend.
Samanta Fabris and Maja Poljak were the best scorers of the match with 12 points apiece, while the Slovakian captain Jaroslava Pencova was the most prolific one for the losing team with six.

Miroslav Aksentijevic, coach of Croatia: “We made a big step forward. This was a very important match since it was the first one in this competition. We played well enough to win, because honestly we have excellent players and we have been performing at a very high level lately, as we showed earlier this summer in the World Grand Prix. We will try to maintain this good level in tomorrow’s match as well.”

Maja Poljak, captain of Croatia: “We have a lot of respect for Slovakia and, for what we have seen in videos, we were expecting a more difficult match, but I have to congratulate my teammates since they played very well.”

Portugal vs. Israel 3-0 (25-15, 26-24, 28-26)

The expectations of the public present at the competition hall in Povoa de Varzim were high and the home fans were not left disappointed. Portugal started the match at a slow pace (0-3) but soon showed that their only goal was the victory. With Marta Hurst scoring in attack, the team turned the score to their side (8-3) and won the opening set at a canter (25-15). The second set was totally different, with the Israeli block stopping the home team’s tempo (15-10). Julia Kavalenka levelled the count at 20-all for Portugal before Kruk replied with three straight points for Israel. Portugal showed resilience and composure to come back and eventually win the set 26-24. Team Israel started the third set in the best possible way, leading 12-6 after an ace by Sofia Starikov. Portugal didn’t give up and, supported by their public, took the lead with and ace by Ana Couto (20-19). The last point of the set (28-26) was scored through a block from the Portuguese player Aline Rodrigues.

Marta Hurst of Portugal was the best scorer of the match with 18 points, two more than Natallia Kruk from Israel.

Antonio Guerra, head coach of Portugal: “Winning the first match and doing it in three sets in such a competition is an incredible boost of motivation and at the same time it provides us with the opportunity to make some errors. In the second set we got to see a clear image of the strength of the Israeli team, but we also counted upon the support from the public, that made us feel at home. We don’t know that much about Slovakia; they are stronger than Israel, both technically and physically, but that doesn’t take away our determination to win.”

Juliana Antunes, team captain of Portugal: “From the start of this adventure we said that our goal is the qualification to the Final Round, and after this victory, I believe that our motivation to go for it was even further reinforced. We will continue to fight point by point, set by set and match by match till the end.”

Galit Devash, Israel captain: “We did not expect this result. We came here to win, but we couldn’t deliver our game. We have very young players, with an average age of 21, and they still make lots of mistakes. But I believe in the value of our team and that will be shown in the next matches.”

Pool E

Montenegro vs. Romania 3-1 (25-23, 25-21, 21-25, 25-19)

The Romanian players looked really nervous in the early stages of the match and made a way too many unforced errors. After some perfect blocks Montenegro led by 16-11 at the second technical time-out. Romania managed to come back but after a single block by Ana Otasevic, Montenegro won the opening set by 25-23.
With the same recipe – clever float serving and good blocking Montenegro was five points ahead in the second set (17-12). The players coached by Dragan Nesic continued to play better and better and they eventually closed the set by 25-21 after a powerful spike killed by their team captain Tatjana Bokan.
Romania finally found the right rhythm and led by three points at the second technical time-out in the third set. Montenegro started to make too many unforced errors and this resulted in a 25-21 win for Romania.  
Despite the rocky end of the third set, Montenegro looked confident and with great defence, and especially without making any easy mistakes they had a three-point advantage at 18-15 in set 4. The last minutes of the match belonged to Montenegro’s team captain Bokan who was absolutely unstoppable in attack and after another powerful spike she was the one who finished it all off at 25-19 to seal a 3-1 win for her team.

Bokan was the top scorer of the match with 16 points. For Romania Roxana Denisa Bacsis finished the match with 14 markers.

Dragan Nesic, coach of Montenegro: “Congratulations to my team! We fought from start to end and did a really good job from a tactical standpoint throughout the entire match. By the end of the third set we already had 13 blocks, so this figure shows that we were well prepared for our opponent. Bulgaria is a serious team but we will fight!”

Tatjana Bokan, captain of Montenegro: “Before the match we were regarded as the outsiders but we managed to play really well and claimed what is a great victory for us! Tomorrow we will play Bulgaria, the favourite team in this tournament but we will fight and let’s see what happens.”

Diana Lorena Tataru, setter of Romania: “It was a difficult match for us but I also think that we were a little bit too nervous, because it was our first official match with this new composition. It was a tough start for us but we hope we will find improve for the next game and we will play better and better with each match.”

Adina Salaoru, captain of Romania: “We had some problems with our journey, our flight was cancelled and we arrived really late at night but this is not the main reason for our defeat. It was a really important game for us today but the tournament is just in its early stages, so we will try to do our best in the next matches.” 

Bulgaria vs. Switzerland 3-0 (25-18, 25-13, 25-13)

Anchored by their team captain Elitsa Vasileva, Bulgaria claimed a three-point lead at 17-14 of the opening set. The hosts continued to serve really well and after four aces scored by Emiliya Nikolova, Lora Kitipova and Elitsa Vasileva, the Bulgarian Lionesses comfortably won the opening set by 25-18.

Switzerland continued to struggle in reception and by the second technical time-out of the second set Bulgaria had piled up an impressive 16-8 lead. Elitsa Vasileva scored yet another ace for 19-10 and the hosts did not look back anymore to secure a compelling 25-13 set win.

With perfect and clever float serving by Lora Kitipova, Bulgaria caught the perfect start to the third set to lead by seven points at the first technical time-out. The hosts continued to play at a really high level in all aspects of the game and comfortably closed the third set by 25-13 and with it the match as well.

Tabea Dalliard, libero of Switzerland: “I think Bulgaria have a really good team. They played at a really high level. We performed well in the first set and were able to be a good match for them and this is something positive for us. I hope to win our next match.”
Martina Halter, player of Switzerland: “The first set was really tough and good for us because we played as a team. The players on court, those on the bench and the staff showed great cohesion and spirit. Tomorrow I expect to play like we did today in the first set and I hope to achieve a good result against Romania.”

Ivan Seferinov, coach of Bulgaria: “We made too many unforced errors in the beginning of the first set, but after that we improved the quality of our performance. Tomorrow I expect a tough match against Montenegro. Now we will have to forget today’s victory and we must think and prepare for our next match which will be really important for our team.”

Emiliya Nikolova, opposite of Bulgaria: “It was important for us to win this first match. We did it and now we must focus on our next match. The most important thing is to play well and to win our next two matches which will be a good result after all the hard work and energy we put in our training throughout the summer.”

Pool F

Slovenia vs. Belarus 2-3 (25-13, 25-20, 16-25, 20-25, 12-15)

The matchup starring Belarus and Slovenia opened the programme of Pool F in Brno. Slovenia were off to a flying start but Belarus regrouped to come back from two sets down and eventually celebrated a hard-fought 3-2 victory.

Slovenia claimed an early lead and were helped by the many unforced errors made by Belarus. The players coached by Bruno Najdic just outplayed Belarus in all aspects of the game and this resulted in a massive 25-13 set win.
The same trend continued in the second set where Belarus made mistakes time and again. Even substitutions asked by Belarusian coach Aliaksandr Klimovich did not bring the desired effects. Slovenia continued to perform much better than their opponents and logically won the second set to double their lead in the match.
Belarus finally stepped up their efforts in set 3 and lived up to their status and to everyone’s expectations. They reduced their mistakes to a minimum and this had an immediate impact on the score, with Belarus emerging victorious at the end of the set with a margin of as many as nine points.
The two teams had ups and downs throughout the fourth set which was a close battle that at some point seemed to go Slovenia’s way. However, as the match progressed, it was Belarus to control the game and as a result, a tie-break was to be played.
Slovenia caught a promising start to the fifth set with some blocks, however Belarus used their experience to complete their comeback and celebrate a 3-2 win.

Marina Cvetanovic, captain of Slovenia: “All in all we played a good match; in the tie-break we could not handle it anymore, it is a bit of a disappointment but we are still happy about the performance we showed.”

Bruno Najdic, head coach of Slovenia: “The final result is a bit disappointing but I think we played a good match, Belarus have an experienced team so I think we surprised them a little bit with our game. We showed that we are able to play Volleyball at a high level, this is sport, we did everything to win the match and we will keep doing the same.”

Kristina Mikhailenko, player of Belarus: “We are so happy that we could turn it, it was very difficult and we caught a slow start, maybe it was because of the atmosphere… It is important that we won, we got two points and not three, but this is still a good thing for us.”

Angelo Anibal Vercesi, assistant coach of Belarus: “We are definitely happy to win after coming back from 0-2. Our players fought back with a lot of determination and also those who came in from the bench played a role and contributed to this victory. We just need to analyse why we started so slowly, and in the next match we need to pay more attention to this.”

Czech Republic vs. Greece 3-0 (25-12, 25-20, 25-15)

The Czech Republic confirmed their status of pre-favourites in Pool F by recording a speedy and comfortable 3-0 win in their home debut against Greece.
The first set was entirely controlled by the Czechs – and they did so from start to end as they looked very motivated and their game was extremely well-organised. They provided the home audience with something to cheer about following their compelling 25-12 win.
The second set was a lot closer, especially at the beginning. Towards the end both teams made a number of mistakes, thereby adding some extra drama, however the Czech team scored five times in a row to double their lead in the match (25-20).
The third set was kind of a copy of the first one as Greece did not find a way to stand the pressure put by the Czechs who eventually secured a well-deserved 3-0 win.

Aneta Havlíčková, captain of the Czech Republic: “It was the first match in front of our home fans and it’s always kind of unpredictable with an opponent who is not really a top team, so we are just happy to win today. We just got rid of that home pressure and we expect to play another two difficult matches but overall we are satisfied with today’s performance.”  

Alexander Waibl, head coach of the Czech Republic: “The first thing is that it’s never easy to play an opening match, especially at home. The girls started very good but then they were a little bit nervous. The second thing is that Greece played with a lot of girls we hadn’t seen before, because they didn’t play the European League this year, so we had to kind of figure out how to play and to adjust. For sure we didn’t play at our highest level, and we need to play better tomorrow and also on Sunday. It is always important to win especially in this hall where the people are so passionate, so in the end it was a good day for us.”

Evangelia Chantava, player of Greece: “Actually we played bad today, we knew that the Czechs are stronger than us and they played a lot better than we did. I think we should do better in defence in the next matches.”

Anestis Giannakopoulos, assistant coach of Greece: “The match was very difficult, we played good, but the Czechs were simply better. We are always going to play 100% and we will see how far this will take us.” 

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