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17/09/2016 23:59
Road to #EuroVolleyW – Nine teams record back-to-back victories
2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Women

Luxembourg, September 17, 2016. The six second-round qualifiers on schedule for the 2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women continued on Saturday with another 12 matches. Ukraine and Italy in Pool A, Belgium in Pool B, Poland and Hungary in Pool C, Croatia in Pool D as well as Bulgaria plus the Czech Republic and Belarus in Pool E and F respectively extended their winning streak improving their win-loss records to 2-0. A third round of matches will be contested on Sunday to complete the first of two round robin tournaments in each pool – the second and final ones will follow next week and determine who moves on straight to the 2017 EuroVolley Finals taking place in Azerbaijan and Georgia. 

Pool A

Ukraine vs. Latvia 3-0 (25-10, 25-14, 25-17)

Ukraine used their serve to put pressure on the opponents and this tactic obviously paid dividends (11-1). Even though the Ukrainian coach made some changes towards the end of the set, the home side still won it at a canter (25-10). The same happened also in the second set even though Latvia improved their performance and Ukraine made more mistakes than before. Ukraine claimed 8-3 and 16-9 leads before Hanna Kyrychenko sealed a 25-14 win for the home side. Ukraine coach Gariy Yegiazarov changed half of the starting six in the third set and Latvia responded by cruising to a 5-1 early lead. However, Ukraine soon fought back and levelled at 5-all. The hosts controlled the game through to the end even though Latvia scored more points than they had done in the previous sets – before Ukraine deservedly celebrated their second victory in Yuzhny in as many matches.

Inese Jursone, team captain of Latvia: “There is nothing to say about our performance in the first two sets. As for the third, our reception was better and as a result we could start executing our game plan. Tomorrow we will play with Austria and we will be trying to put up a real fight.”

Janis Leitis, head coach of Latvia: “The game started with Ukraine using their serve better than they did yesterday. Our opponent didn’t provide us with any chance to execute our game plan. However, when our reception started working better, the game became a lot closer. I think we can be happier with today’s performance than with what we did yesterday against Italy.”   

Nadiia Kodola, team captain of Ukraine: “In the first and second sets we served very well and this resulted in a clear 2-0 lead for us. However, in the third we started experimenting a bit and you could see that this partly affected the result. Tomorrow we will play Italy and we want to win that match too.”

Gariy Yegiazarov, head coach of Ukraine: “We had planned to put pressure with our serve and so we did. We also held a physical advantage at the net. As for the third set, I made three substitutions in order to test some combinations before tomorrow’s match with Italy. We will focus on delivering a good performance and we are motivated to win the next match too.”

Austria vs. Italy 0-3 (14-25, 12-25, 22-25)

The second match of the day in Yuzhny featured pre-favourites Italy and underdogs Austria. The screenplay was the same as the day before when Italy played Latvia – two easy set wins before a more closely contested third set followed. In the end the Azzurre won 3-0 and look ready to take on Ukraine on Sunday for the most anticipated match of the tournament.
Italy easily dominated the game in the first and second sets. Set 3 was a way different with the score remaining close up until 9-all. Austria even edged ahead by exploiting their block and serve and claimed a six-point lead at 15-9 following an ace by Lisa Vogler. However, Italy responded immediately, slowly but surely cut their deficit and eventually finished the match in three sets though Austria could be very proud of the great defence actions they showed.

Srna Markovic, captain of Austria: “It was definitely a better game than yesterday’s with Ukraine. We tried to show our best. We claimed the lead in the third set but we could not win it in the end because Italy are a much stronger team than us.”

Svetlana Ilic, head coach of Austria: “I first want to congratulate my colleague on their victory. Italy have provided my players with an opportunity to show their skills and talent. They looked extremely proud after finishing some good actions. This is the kind of experience that you cannot buy at a shop. Tomorrow we expect a very tough match with Latvia and we will be trying our best in order to win.”

Paola Egonu, player of Italy: “It was a very good game for us. I hope that we will show a high-level performance tomorrow. The match against Ukraine will be very tough.”

Cristiano Lucchi, head coach of Italy: “It was very important for us to win this game. In the third set I made some changes as we have already started preparing for tomorrow’s game. The match with Ukraine will very tough and we must take it very carefully. Keys to victory will be our serve and the ability to keep our mistakes down to a minimum.”

Pool B

Spain vs. Belgium 2-3 (15-25, 25-19, 25-22, 21-25, 11-15)

The Yellow Tigers had to fight more than expected – 123 minutes – to celebrate their second victory in Bordeaux, a result which can be instrumental to their eventual qualification to the Final Round of the women’s EuroVolley. Though the Belgians claimed a comfortable lead halfway through the opening set which their opponents could not erase, the Spaniards fought bravely and dominated the second set from start to end (25-19). The same happened in set 3 where Belgium could not find a way to stop Jessica Rivero, Spain’s eventual best scorer in the match with 22 points.

However, after changing setter in the fourth set, Belgium regrouped and as their coach, Gert Vande Broek said afterwards, “we found back our fighting spirit. Against this kind of opponent, it is imperative to remain focussed and we have to keep in mind that our goal is to qualify to the Final Round of the European Championship.” Belgium put more and more pressure on Spain, this resulting in their opponents giving points away on their own mistakes. With two wins in as many matches, Belgium have cemented their leadership in Pool B.

“I want to congratulate Spain because they played a very good game tonight, without any pressure, so I am relieved that we won in the end but we need to learn from this kind of matches because the spirit of my team was not what I expected,” Vande Broek concluded.

Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. France 0-3 (13-25, 18-25, 19-25)

After losing to Belgium on Friday, the Bleues claimed on Saturday their first victory in Pool B, as they dominated their matchup with Bosnia and Herzegovina, recording as many as 14 aces and nine blocks.

France caught a flying start and controlled the game from start to end of the opening set. The second followed the same plot with France easily cruising to a 25-18 win. The players coached by Goran Nesic improved their performance in the third set where Bosnia and Herzegovina claimed an early 5-1 lead. However, with Pauline Martin serving, France quickly closed the gap and cruised to a 3-0 victory which they claimed in only 81 minutes of play.

Magali Magail, head coach of France: “The result is very important for the remainder of the tournament. Tomorrow’s match with Spain will be a tough one. I am satisfied because we played a good match and we did not waste too much of our energy.”

Pool C

Poland vs. Estonia 3-0 (25-17, 25-16, 25-17)

The weather was rainy and gloomy in Érd on Saturday afternoon, and perhaps this was the reason why Poland started their match with Estonia looking a bit sleepy. Estonia took advantage of this, leading the way at the first technical time-out of the opening set, and extending their advantage to three points at the second. However, Poland equalised at 17-17, and after that Estonia could not score any more points – with Poland comfortably cruising towards a 25-17 win.

The second set followed a similar plot, but this time the turnaround happened a way earlier. After 10-10, Poland dominated in all aspects of the game, and Estonia did not stand a chance of stopping their run (25-16).

The Polish show of strength continued in the third set, where they claimed an impressive 8-2 lead at the first technical time-out. Estonia reduced their gap down to four, but that was the best they could achieve before Poland won the set 25-17 and with it secured their second consecutive 3-0 win in as many matches.

Jacek Nawrocki, head coach of Poland: “Before the game, I told the girls that they should stay 100% focussed on each ball. We won and we are very happy. Now we have to prepare for the next game.”

Marko Mett, head coach of Estonia: “The problem was that we play at a different level than Poland. The Polish captain made good services. We started very well in the first and the second sets. After the match I told the girls that we played as good as we can, so this should be kept in mind.”

Finland vs Hungary 1-3 (27-25, 19-25, 19-25, 20-25)

Finland made things difficult for Hungary in the opening set, where they claimed a two, three-point lead early on which they extended to five at the second technical time-out. After this, Hungary resurrected, thanks to Gréta Szakmáry, and they levelled the score at 21-all. Finland edged ahead again but Hungary missed out on a set ball before the Finns closed it out 27-25.

Finland caught the better start in the second set as well but Hungary regrouped a way earlier than the set before and with the help of Eszter Nagy they set the pace at the first technical time-out (8-7). After the score stood at 10-all, Hungary played better and better, claiming a six-point lead which went down to three because of their own mistakes. Hungary coach Jan De Brandt asked a time-out and after this, the hosts scored five in a row to finish the set at 25-19 with another ‘bomb’ by Szakmáry.

Dóra Horváth, Szakmáry and Rita Liliom joined forces as Hungary dominated the third set. The hosts had as many as eight set balls but could use only their fourth chance to win the set 25-19. The start of the fourth set was a way closer, with Hungary leading 8-7 but Horváth and Réka Bleicher piled up a number of aces and with that also opportunities for the home side to close the match. This eventually happened at 25-20 following a service error by the Finns.

Tapio Kangasniemi, head coach of Finland: “Hungary showed a better performance than in their previous match against Estonia. They improved their attacks and serve. I am disappointed, because we lost, but I think we played pretty good. We had to be more aggressive.”

Jan De Brandt, head coach of Hungary: “It was a very tough and a very nice fight at the same time. We absolutely had to win, and we did it. We took another three points and we now have six, which is really good. Tomorrow we can play free from any pressure against Poland, we will see what happens, but this victory is very important.”

Pool D

Croatia vs. Israel 3-0 (25-9, 25-21, 27-25)

Croatia continued their show of strength in Pool D recording their second victory in as many matches in Povoa de Varzim. On Saturday Croatia’s prey was Israel, a still young and somewhat inexperienced team. Israel tried to create difficulties to the Croatian reception so that they could find a way to stop the offensive power of the team coached by Miroslav Aksentijevic, but that was not enough, and Croatia scored point after point until the end of the opening set: 25-9.
In the second one Aksentijevic changed the line-up and the quality of Croatia’s performance was evidently affected, this resulting in an 11-4 score for Israel. The return of the most experienced players to the court towards the end of the set propelled a comeback and turnaround: 25-21. In the last set, Israel played all their cards and their efforts were rewarded with the lead on the scoreboard (15-13, 25-24). Nevertheless, the Croatian machine worked flawless once again, with Samanta Fabris and Beta Dumancic contributing to the final 27-25 for a 3-0 victory.

With 14 points, Fabris was the best scorer of the match, while Sofia Starikov recorded 10 markers for Israel in their losing effort.

Mira Topic, player of Croatia: “It was a difficult match, because our reception wasn’t that good and that is one of the aspects that we have to improve on for the next matches. Israel has a good team and a good coach, but we hope to win both this and the next tournament at home, since our goal is to participate in the Final Round of the European Championship.”

Arie Selinger, the long-time, legendary coach of Israel, said: “With more luck, we could have won the second and third sets, but we simply weren’t lucky enough. This is not the strongest Israeli team, we have many younger players, one of them became a mother just a while ago, our libero is injured… It was difficult to do better under these circumstances.”

Slovakia vs. Portugal 3-1 (25-19, 25-17, 23-25, 25-21)

Slovakia took three points from their match with hosts Portugal to make amends for their 0-3 loss to Croatia on Friday. Slovakia stormed to a 16-10 lead in the first set with solid blocks and effective serves, Portugal attempted a late comeback (23-19) and yet Slovakia could hold on to their early advantage to claim a 25-19 win. Though they made some mistakes, the hosts were able to edge ahead at 13-12 in the second set following a block by Aline Rodrigues. However, Slovakia were able to retake control of the match and eventually won the set 25-17 with two consecutive attacks by their team captain Jaroslava Pencova.
Vanessa Rodrigues and Marta Hurst helped Portugal cruise to a 14-9 lead in the third set and the attacks by Julia Kavalenka made the difference as the hosts eventually emerged victorious at 25-23. The course of the match changed again in set 4 where Pencova and Nikola Radosova regularly spiked through the Portuguese block (17-12). A late surge by Portugal resulted in the hosts closing in at 19-17 after an ace by Eduarda Duarte, but Slovakia remained focussed and eventually secured a 25-21 win to seal their 3-1 victory in the match.

Slovakian captain Jaroslava Pencova was the best scorer of the match with 16 points, followed by Julia Kavalenka from Portugal and her compatriot Nikola Radosova, each with 14.

Marek Rojko, head coach of Slovakia: “We took the match with Portugal with the greatest respect after they won against Israel yesterday and we also wanted to play better than we did yesterday with Croatia. These two facts allowed us to focus on one goal, which was to win 3-0, something we did not achieve in the end, but we took three points in the end and this is what really matters. This means our eventual qualification to the Final Round will depend on us and on our results.”

Antonio Guerra, head coach of Portugal: “We knew that we had to be very solid and cohesive and this is something we did not always achieve tonight. Slovakia had moments when they played very well, but were disturbed a little in the end due to our reaction. Against Croatia we will have to play joyfully and enjoy the moment, since we will play against a very good team.”

Marta Hurst, player of Portugal: “We played a good match, but we lacked consistency and that is fatal against a team such as Slovakia. Tomorrow it will be even more difficult since Croatia have a very strong and experienced team, with very good players. We have to recover so that we can perform at our best even after two very exhausting matches.”

Pool E

Romania vs. Switzerland 3-1 (25-23, 19-25, 25-20, 25-22)

Though they caught a disastrous start to the match and Switzerland scored nine points in a row, Romania kept calm and were able to regroup. The Swiss, on the other hand, looked more and more nervous as the match progressed and as a result they ended up losing the first set 25-23. The second set started in the same way. Switzerland took the lead from the very beginning but this time they managed to keep it till the end. A block-out after Laura Kuenzler’s spike sealed their 25-19 win. The Romanians produced a dominant performance in the third set even though they trailed by four points at the beginning. Romania controlled the game through to the end, thus securing a 25-20 victory in the set. The fourth set was definitely more competitive but only early on. The second technical time-out came with Romania leading by four points and they just held on to this advantage to secure their first victory in Sofia (25-22).

Gabi Schottroff was the best scorer of the match with 16 points (including 11 blocks) for Switzerland, while Adina Salaoru led all scorers for Romania with 14.

Davide Delmati, head coach of Romania: “It’s the first victory for us. We didn’t play that good but at this time the result is more important. We made more mistakes in the first part of the match than we did later on. Tomorrow we will play against Bulgaria and we will give our best not to make as many mistakes as we made today and to win.”
Adina Salaoru, team captain of Romania: “It was a very important game for us and I am really happy that we won. I hope that this win will help us claim a better position in the pool and hopefully we will win the matches at home next week.”

Timothy Lippuner, head coach of Switzerland: “I think we need more experience to play and win matches like this one. Both teams were equal but we made more mistakes. Our setters were a little bit struggling and the middle blockers were not able to attack. At the beginning of each set I was always satisfied but towards the end we could not finish some points and I think that is the price we have to pay for the young age of our players. We have to take our lesson and learn how to finish the sets successfully.”

Laura Kuenzler, team captain of Switzerland: “We played a good game especially at the start of the sets but we didn’t continue in the same way for the entire match. Our opponents have more experience, they played more constantly and they never gave up even after catching a bad start to each set. We will try our best in the next days and if we play like this, I am confident that we are going to win one match or the other.”

Montenegro vs. Bulgaria 0-3 (18-25, 19-25, 11-25)

The early stages of the opening set were marked by long and competitive rallies, so the fans could imagine that this was likely to be a long and close match. However, soon Bulgaria took control of the game, started serving better and comfortably claimed the opening set by 25-18. Bulgaria’s leadership was not to be questioned in the second set either with a three-point lead at the first technical time-out that grew to five at the second mandatory break. Bulgaria put a lot of pressure with their serve, this resulting in a 25-19 set win and in as many as four aces. After a close start to the third set, the Lionesses shocked Montenegro with a flawless run to 17-4 and the match came to an end at 25-11 following an attack through the middle by Nasya Dimitrova.

Elitsa Vasileva contributed the most points and scored 20 times (including five aces) followed by Emiliya Nikolova with 16. Nikoleta Perovic scored 12 points for Montenegro.

Elitsa Vasileva, team captain of Bulgaria: “I am really pleased that we won. It’s an important victory to us because we try to get the maximum out of this tournament. The 3-0 win is good also for our physical condition. Our last game is tomorrow and hopefully we will win again.”

Ivan Seferinov, head coach of Bulgaria: “The players followed our instructions during the match except at the beginning of the first set when we could not receive and attack at a good level. The truth is that when you a have a tall block, you have to play more technically and finish the rallies with more tips to get past the blockers. So after the first set, things got better, we started serving stronger which definitely helped us take and keep the lead.”

Tatjana Bokan, team captain of Montenegro: “I am a little bit upset. It’s true that Bulgaria was the favourite, but it’s also true that we could have done more. We started well in the first set, we followed our game plan but after that we kind of collapsed and I don’t know what happened at that moment. I would like to congratulate the team of Bulgaria because they started serving very well and didn’t give us any chance to come back and pose a threat.”

Dragan Nesic, head coach of Montenegro: “We knew that it was going to be a difficult match. As a national team it’s really important to us to play against players like Elitsa Vasileva and Emiliya Nikolova who performed really well especially in the first set when they took the responsibility to score and showed their outstanding skills. We couldn’t handle the Bulgarian strong serves but it’s normal. At this time, we don’t compare ourselves with Bulgaria, we are rather focussed on Romania and Switzerland, i.e. the other teams in the pool.”  

Pool F

Belarus vs. Greece 3-2 (25-16, 25-14, 22-25, 24-26, 15-12)

Belarus seemed to have secured their second victory in Brno after easily winning the first and second sets of their matchup with Greece but their opponents showed an extraordinary team spirit and resilience to come back and go for a tie-break. It was a very close fight through the end, with Belarus eventually emerging victorious and Greece taking one point from this match.  

On Friday Belarus had caught a slow start to their match with Slovenia but this time around it just went the other way. Greece tried their best to put up a fight but Belarus played without making any mistakes and easily won the first set 25-16.
Greece claimed a two-point lead in the early stages of the second set but they could not keep it for long. As the match progressed, Belarus looked in full control and as a result, they ended up being just one set away from recording their second victory in Brno.
However, Greece did not give in that easily and fought for every single rally, which was the deciding factor of the third set where Belarus were probably caught by surprise. The Greek players were also helped by a number of passionate fans and their efforts paid dividends. Though they still had problems in reception similar to the first and second sets, Greece relied on their team spirit and by counting on it they extended the match to a tie-break. The fifth set turned into a real drama with Greece making several easy mistakes which eventually cost them the victory.

Hanna Kalinouskaya-Guengoer, player of Belarus: “Today we started in the best way and we won two sets in a row, but in the third we made some changes and experimented a bit, which cost us the lead and helped Greece come back in the game. In the final set we made less mistakes and we are happy we took at least two points from this match.”  

Angelo Anibal Vercesi, assistant coach of Belarus: “We are again very happy that we won. The situation was different from yesterday, this time it was 2-0 for us, but after that we decided we wanted to provide an opportunity to play also to our second lines which didn’t work in the end. This turned out to be a mistake and the coaching staff is to be held responsible for that. It’s positive that we could at least win the tie-break after losing two sets, so that’s what we can be happy about.”

Evangelia Chantava, player of Greece: “Actually I have to acknowledge that we started playing only after the second set (smiles) so this means that for the next matches we have to start a lot more focussed. I think we played very good in the three next sets but we made too many mistakes in key moments of the match, which was crucial today.”

Dimitrios Floros, head coach Greece: “In the first two sets we made some mistakes early on and we weren’t able to keep the same pace as our opponent. We made some changes after the second set and we eventually won set 3 and 4, but all in all our opponent was better today and we now have to focus on the next matches.”

Slovenia vs. Czech Republic 0-3 (20-25, 16-25, 13-25)

As many as 2,500 fans were in attendance at Vodova sports hall in Brno for the second match of the home team. The Czech supporters were eventually provided with something to cheer about as the hosts stamped a straight-sets victory over Slovenia.

Like in their previous match with Greece, the Czechs caught a flying start and controlled the game from start to end of the opening set. The Czechs accelerated their pace in the second set but this resulted in some unforced errors which gave Slovenia some hope they would be able to pose a threat. However, the home side regrouped quickly and their leadership in the match was never to be questioned. This was even more evident in the third set where Slovenia could not execute their game plan and the Czech fans simply enjoyed the flawless performance of their favourite Volleyball players.

Marina Cvetanovic, team captain of Slovenia: “It was a very difficult match for us, they just outplayed us with their experience. Maybe if we had served better, the match would have been closer but they showed they are really good and that’s it.”

Bruno Najdic, head coach of Slovenia: “I think the Czechs played a really good match, much better than yesterday, they were focussed and determined from the first to the last point. We couldn’t do much as their spikers just played outstandingly well. The Czech team fully deserved to win today.”

Aneta Havlíčková, captain of the Czech Republic: “We are very happy with the result, it wasn’t an easy match as the score may suggest. I think we played well from the first rallies, we pushed them so they were immediately put under pressure. It’s a good thing that we brought home another victory which is very important for us, now we have to recover and prepare for tommorow and try to do our best again.”

Alexander Waibl, head coach of the Czech Republic: “Today we played a really good match, we served strong and had also very good reception so Lucie [Smutna, the setter] could speed up the game a little, we scored many points from position four and for sure it was one of our best games in the past weeks against a team which is normally strong. Everything just worked well, with our tactics and blocks and defence. There was a great atmosphere with a lot of people here and we are happy but there’s one more step ahead, the team has to recover now because tomorrow’s match with Belarus could be even more challenging.”

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