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18/09/2016 23:34
Road to #EuroVolleyW – Six teams complete hat-trick of wins
2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Women

Luxembourg, September 18, 2016. The first set of second round qualifiers to the 2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women came to an end on Sunday with another 12 matches on schedule across six pools. Belgium’s Yellow Tigers were the first ones to complete a hat-trick of wins and did so in style, claiming their third victory in Pool B outlasting Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 in Bordeaux. They were emulated by Italy in Pool A, Poland in Pool C, Croatia in Pool D, Bulgaria and Belarus in Pool E and F, respectively. Volleyball fans can already look forward to the second round robins that will be taking place next week – with the eventual winners securing their progression to the 2017 women’s EuroVolley Finals in Azerbaijan and Georgia.  

Pool A

Ukraine vs. Italy 2-3 (17-25, 25-21, 25-19, 11-25, 12-15) 

Italy were the first ones to edge ahead in the opening set (6-3, 8-5) and a solid performance by their rising star Paola Egonu paved the way towards a compelling 25-17 win. Iryna Trushkina could block Italy’s best scorer from the Rio 2016 Olympics only once, and Italy were in full control through to the end of the set. The hosts played a lot more aggressive in the second set, rushing to an 8-5 lead and the Ukrainian advantage grew even bigger as Svitlana Dorsman spiked for 16-11. Italy attempted a comeback but could not quite complete their mission – 18-year-old Karyna Yurchenko finished the set at 25-21 after previously replacing Anastasiia Chernukha. Ukraine showed that same momentum also in the early stages of set 3 (5-1) and helped by the support of their many fans in attendance, the hosts secured a 2-1 edge in the match. Italy responded the same way in set 4 – leading 5-1 and 10-3 and controlling the game through to a massive 25-11 win. Ukraine were only three points away from an astounding victory when leading 12-10 at the tie-break after a powerful spike by Nadiia Kodola. However, three mistakes in a row destroyed their dreams of glory and Italy went on to win the set 15-12 to finish the first weekend of action in Pool A on three wins.

Nadiia Kodola, team captain of Ukraine: “We had our chances to win but unfortunately we couldn’t use them. The tie-break is always some kind of a lottery. The one who is mentally stronger is the one who wins in the end. We don’t make a tragedy out of this loss, we will keep fighting and try to win next week in Italy.”

Gariy Yegiazarov, head coach of Ukraine: “I think it was a good match for both teams. We couldn’t show our best performance in reception and attack. I am very glad that my team showed character and fought until the end. Thanks to our fans for their great support. The players felt that and it had a positive impact on our performance.”

Valentina Tirozzi, team captain of Italy: “I am really proud of my team. It was a really tough match.”

Cristiano Lucchi, head coach of Italy: “As I expected, the match was a tough one. I’m happy that we eventually won this game. Ukraine have some good spikers and the connection between their setter and middle-blockers works very well too.”

Latvia vs. Austria 2-3 (18-25, 25-23, 25-23, 13-25, 11-15)

The screenplay of the last game was the same as in the much anticipated fight between Italy and Ukraine. Austria emerged on top after winning the first, fourth and fifth sets – just like Italy did in the previous match contested at Olymp sports complex. In the tie-break the Latvians did not find a way to handle the serves of Lisa Konrad and this resulted in the first victory in the pool for the team coached by Svetlana Ilic.

Srna Markovic, team captain of Austria: “It was a very difficult game for us and that’s why we are so happy that we won. It really means a lot to us because we have been working really hard for quite some time. We will focus on improving our game ahead of the next tournament in Italy.”

Svetlana Ilic, head coach of Austria: “I want to congratulate my team on the victory and especially on the attitude they have shown for the past months. My players spent two months at a training camp. They learned very fast and we worked very hard there. I’m proud of this moment. In the second and third sets we made a lot of mistakes. It was a nervous game for our team and Latvia played very good, especially in defence. As for the tie-break: thanks to Lisa Konrad for the great job she did behind the service line and to the whole team.”
Janis Leitis, head coach of Latvia: “We can predict how Ukraine and Italy will attack but Austria are more unpredictable because their players go for unconventional ways to spike past the block. The destiny of the tie-break was determined by the serve. Austrian player Lisa Konrad did not falter, whereas our players looked shaky and served weak. This is not going to take us to any victory. We need to play more aggressive to win a match like this. I’m still glad that we came out on top at the end of the second and third sets.”

Pool B

Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 (25-3, 25-9, 28-26)

Belgium continued their show of strength in Pool B recording their third victory in as many matches in Bordeaux. The Yellow Tigers comfortably controlled the game in the first and second sets. It took them only 17 and 20 minutes, respectively to cruise to massive 25-3 and 25-9 wins. The third set was much different with Bosnia and Herzegovina able to keep their deficit down to three points up until the crunch time. The underdogs were able to cancel two match balls for the Belgians and had two of their own before Britt Herbots scored her 15 marker of the day – thereby equalling the performance of teammates Laura Heyrman and Freya Aelbrecht – to seal a 3-0 win for the Yellow Tigers who leave Bordeaux with eight points from three matches.

Gert Vande Broek, head coach of Belgium: “I am obviously happy with this victory, especially because we played really good for two and a half sets, thus living up to our current CEV ranking. I want to forget the end of the third set because the whole match was a good answer to yesterday’s tough one we had with Spain. I am satisfied with the eight points we take from this weekend. It is important for the confidence of the group and ahead of next week’s tournament because even though we play at home, we know it is going to be tough.”
Freya Aelbrecht, player of Belgium: “I am happy with the three victories but I am not satisfied with the way we achieved these results. Spain and France made us have doubts, they know how to play against us and they know exactly what our weaknesses are, so we really need to work on these this coming week to be ready for the second tournament. We often play under pressure when things don’t work in the best way but if we want to go to the European Championship, we really need to improve.”

Spain vs. France 3-0 (25-14, 25-22, 25-19)

Spain upset the local fans in Bordeaux as they cruised to a 3-0 victory over hosts France. The first set was especially dominated by the Spaniards who out-blocked France 8 to 1. France regrouped in the second set but even though they claimed a 22-19 lead, they ended up losing it 22-25 after Spain scored six times in a row. Spain continued their show also in the third set with top scorers Jessica Rivero and Helia Gonzalez – they recorded 15 and 14 points, respectively – paving the way to a 3-0 victory.  
Pascual Saurin, head coach of Spain: “I am very happy! This was a great match for us. Everything worked just fine, especially our block and serve. These were the keys to our victory and on top of this the performance of my players was very steady and consistent. We did not expect such an easy victory as France played a couple of good matches with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Belgium.”  
Milagros Corral, setter of Team Spain: “I am happy and relieved at the same time! We played a little under pressure at the very beginning of the match but after that we just enjoyed playing and did a great job with our service and block. Now we want to play for first place because we showed the whole weekend that we are able to play as good as the three other teams in the pool. We were also close to claiming a victory against Belgium on Saturday.”   
Magali Magail, head coach of France: “We lacked consistency in defence and our attacks were not that good either. We always wanted to spike with full power and never tried to change our rhythm. As for Spain, they played clever, a lot more than we did.”

Pool C

Estonia vs. Finland 3-2 (25-13, 22-25, 20-25, 25-20, 15-11)

Estonia claimed a rather surprising tie-break win in their ‘derby’ with Finland. Similar to their previous match with Poland, Estonia came out with all guns blazing and soon they claimed a five-point lead. By the second technical time-out the Estonian advantage had grown to 10 points, and after claiming as many as 14 set balls, Estonia cashed their fourth opportunity to win the first set 25-13.
Finland found their way into the match in the second set and this is where they started setting the pace of the game. Halfway through, Estonia closed in and levelled the score, thus setting up an exciting finish where the Finns emerged victorious at 25-22.

The close race continued in the third set where Estonia and Finland edged ahead at the first and second technical time-outs, respectively. The Finns, however, played with more consistency and eventually won the set by 25-20.

Estonia returned the favour in the fourth set which they dominated and even a late time-out asked by the Finnish coach Tapio Kangasniemi could not prevent the Estonians from winning it 25-20. Estonia started the tie-break with the same pace and eventually went on to win the match (15-11).

Marko Mett, head coach of Estonia: “Today Finland were not the team we saw on Friday and Saturday. Yesterday’s match when they played Hungary took a lot of their energy. They had many ups and downs today as well as problems in reception, whilst our players delivered a very good performance, that is why we won in the end.”

Poland vs. Hungary 3-1 (23-25, 25-14, 25-20, 25-22)

After Hungary had claimed their previous matches with Estonia and Finland, even more fans found their way to the arena in Erd, thus contributing to a great atmosphere. Edina Dobi set the tone of the match for the home side in the opening set and the hosts claimed a five-point lead. A Polish time-out did not change the situation for the visitors and Hungary extended their lead to seven points after the second technical time-out before winning the set 25-23 by using their sixth set ball.

The score remained close in the early stages of the second set (5-5) before Poland scored four times in a row. Hungary could no longer stand the pressure and their blocks and attacks were not as solid as in the previous set, thus paving the way to a comprehensive 25-14 set win for Poland.

Hungary started the third set a lot better but towards the middle Poland came back and levelled the score. The two teams exchanged the lead back and forth for a while before Poland broke away on the way to a 25-20 win.

The fourth set developed in the same way – Hungary leading first before Poland came back to make it 12-all. After a controversial decision by the referee, Poland edged ahead and were able to hold on to their advantage up until the end (25-22).

Jacek Nawrocki, head coach of Poland: “We are very happy, because we won three matches here. This is a first step on the way to our qualification to the Final Round. In Poland next week there will be another challenging tournament. Hungary have a good team, so this is a big victory for us.”

Jan De Brandt, head coach of Hungary: “We started the match very well, but we made some little mistakes in the second set, and we paid a high price for that. Poland have a strong team, they are more talented and have taller players. We played a good game, and we had our chances because we did have the lead a few times. We will now start preparing for the second tournament coming up next week in Poland.”

Pool D

Israel vs. Slovakia 1-3 (17-25, 25-18, 20-25, 21-25)

Slovakia started the match in the best way leading 4-1 after an ace by Paula Kubova. The Slovakians slowly but surely extended their advantage as they combined good serving with strong attacks – their efforts eventually resulted in a 25-17 win sealed by team captain, middle blocker Jaroslava Pencova. The second set followed a different story with Israel team captain Galit Devash stamping some good blocks – Israel claimed a small lead at the first technical time-out (8-7) and widened it to seven points by the end of the set. Slovakia re-organised their offensive game in set 3 and claimed a small advantage as the crunch time approached; they could capitalise on this and won the set 25-20 with a block by Pencova. Natallia Kruk stamped a kill block to secure a 5-0 Israeli lead in the early stages of the fourth set but it did not take long for Slovakia to respond – Veronika Hroncekova killed spike after spike and Nikola Radosova cashed match ball at 25-21 to secure Slovakia’s second victory of the weekend.

Veronika Hroncekova was the best scorer of the match with 20 points; Ella Carolina Saada paced Israel in their losing effort with 16.

Nikola Radosova, player of Slovakia: “Israel played well and I am very happy because our goal was to win two matches and take maximum six points from these games, especially after losing to Croatia in three sets on the opening day of the tournament. Croatia have a very strong team, but we will try to keep winning in the second tournament next week so that we can secure our participation in the Final Round of the European Championship.”

Natallia Kruk, one of the best players of Israel who scored six points in the match: “It was a good match, played by two strong teams. It is disappointing that we were not able to win, but I believe that we are improving our performance with each match we play.”

Croatia vs. Portugal 3-0 (25-15, 25-17, 25-18)

As they played hosts Portugal, Croatia lived up once again to their status of pre-favourites in Pool D – and they eventually leave Portugal with three consecutive 3-0 wins. They are the clear-cut favourites for first place in the pool, even more as they host the second round robin next week in Rovinj – where Portugal and Slovakia are most likely to battle for second place and a spot in the third round of qualifications.

Croatia were anchored by their star player Samanta Fabris in the opening set as they claimed an early 5-1 lead which they kept extending (17-10) until the final score of 25-15. Croatia controlled the game also in set 2 (12-6) but two consecutive spikes by Julia Kavalenka helped Portugal close in at 15-12. And yet, an ace by Fabris and two kill blocks re-opened the gap at 20-13 before Croatia easily won the set 25-17. Portugal kept the pace of their opponent up to 6-all in the third set before Croatia’s block made the difference (14-6) and set the tone for what was going to follow – a 25-18 win for a comprehensive 3-0 victory.

Julia Kavalenka and Samanta Fabris were the top scorers in the match for Portugal and Croatia, respectively as they both chipped in with 11 markers.

Samanta Fabris, player of Croatia: “We are happy because we took nine points from three matches and we are ready to do the same in Rovinj next week. We know that we have a number of world-class players and we came to this first tournament in Portugal completely focussed on ourselves and our game, trying to improve with each match.”
Antonio Guerra, head coach of Portugal: “We did pretty well in the first two matches, but today we did not stick to our game plan and ended up being an easy prey for a team as strong as Croatia. Everything remains open ahead of the second tournament, because even Israel showed that they can have a shot at a spot in the Final Round.”

Vanessa Rodrigues, team captain and setter of Portugal: “We had three matches where we showed the quality and value of women’s Volleyball. This match was different from the previous ones because Croatia have more routine and more physical strength. In Rovinj the goal is to win once again against Israel, fight with Slovakia for second place in the pool and try our best against Croatia.”

Pool E

Switzerland vs. Montenegro 3-2 (16-25, 25-12, 25-20, 23-25, 15-12)

Montenegro claimed a comfortable lead early in the first set and could hold on to it – and an ace by setter Tamara Roganovic eventually sealed their commanding 25-16 win. However, Switzerland stepped up their efforts in the second set; they rushed to an 8-1 lead and extended it to 21-10 later on. Switzerland had as many as 13 set balls, and eventually won the set at a canter (25-12). The Swiss continued to play with the same intensity also in the third set and even though their opponents came back strong and cut their deficit towards the end, the players coached by Timothy Lippuner showed nerves of steel to secure their second set win at 25-20. Montenegro woke up in the fourth set leading by as many as five points at 12-7 and six at 16-10. The Swiss attempted a comeback and fought with everything they had, but this was not enough to prevent Montenegro from securing a 25-23 win and extending the match to the tie-break. The Swiss did not falter – they made almost no mistakes at all in the fifth set and were the first ones to edge ahead. Montenegro used their serve to come back and level the count at 11-all, and a few more long, exciting rallies followed before Switzerland had the upper hand at 15-13 and could celebrate their first victory in the pool.

Maja Storck of Switzerland top scored with 29 points, including three aces, as Tatjana Bokan paced Montenegro with 17 in their losing effort.

Timothy Lippuner, head coach of Switzerland: “We were struggling a bit in the first set but we did not stop believing in our chances and we won the next two sets. After that, Montenegro just woke up and showed very good skills, including some incredible block actions. As you can see, the fifth set was very competitive and nervous for both teams but I think that in the end luck was a little bit more on our side and as a result we achieved this victory.”

Laura Kuenzler, team captain of Switzerland: “We are such a young team and we played really good again, we tried our best and at the end of the day with a little bit of luck it just happened - we won.”

Dragan Nesic, head coach of Montenegro: “I would like to congratulate the team of Switzerland who showed that they have a group of good players from the very beginning of this tournament. Unfortunately, our setter got injured and we needed two sets to come back in the game. The main goal of our participation is to advance to the third round of qualifications, and in order to achieve it we need at least two more victories next week in Romania.”

Tatjana Bokan, team captain of Montenegro: “I don’t want to say too many words. I just want to congratulate the Swiss team and to stress that we will not give up. We are still in second place in the group, so our chances to go on to the next round are intact.”

Romania vs. Bulgaria 0-3 (22-25, 15-25, 20-25)

The teams exchanged the lead back and forth in the opening set with some outstanding actions delighting the local crowd. Bulgaria team captain Elitsa Vasileva eventually put an end to the first set with a superb spike from the left side of the court (25-22). Tsvetelina Zarkova served an ace to secure Bulgaria’s first point in the second set before three Romanian mistakes paved the way for an 8-4 Bulgarian lead at the first technical time-out. Bulgaria continued as they had started – by dominating the game and cruising to a compelling 25-15 win sealed by Gergana Dimitrova. Romania claimed an 8-6 lead in set 3 but it did not last long until Bulgaria came back – the hosts did not lose composure, started serving better and comfortably secured their third straight victory of the weekend (25-20).

Bulgaria outside-spiker Elitsa Vasileva was the best scorer of the game with 16 points as Ioana Maria Baciu paced Romania with 10.

Elitsa Vasileva, team captain of Bulgaria: “We played a good match but we should never be completely satisfied with our performance. After achieving these results, we can feel more confident. We are going to Romania with the highest ambitions and hopefully we will perform the same way there as well.”

Ivan Seferinov, head coach of Bulgaria: “We executed our plan. Our main task was to win all three matches here in order to be more relaxed ahead of the next tournament. Hopefully, we will win our first match in Romania and secure our ticket to the European Championship from the very beginning of the second round robin.”

Davide Delmati, head coach of Romania: “We lost but I am satisfied with this game. It was a good match for us. We paid much attention to our block-defence system. Bulgaria have a very good team and the loss we suffered today is not a big problem. It was our best match in this tournament and if we play like this at home, it is really possible that we can qualify to the next round.”

Adina Salaoru, team captain of Romania: “We expected a match like this, it was really difficult. Bulgaria are definitely the most powerful team at this tournament, but we gave our best and tried to put up a fight. Hopefully, we will have our chances at home next week.”

Pool F

Greece vs. Slovenia 1-3 (16-25, 25-21, 20-25, 8-25)

Slovenia and Greece opened the programme of the last competition day in Brno, with both teams still vying for their first victory in the pool. They both had taken one point from their tie-break losses to Belarus and looked very determined to improve their position in the group. The match was a very close one for two sets but after that Slovenia showed their quality and deservedly claimed a 3-1 win.

The score remained close up to 14-all in the first set but after that Greece started making some easy mistakes, which propelled a comfortable 25-16 victory for Slovenia. The second set followed a similar plot, with both teams fighting for each point but towards the end Slovenia lost their rhythm, thus paving the way with gold for Greece that restored equality in the match. Slovenia were off to the better start in set 3 but as the match progressed Greece closed in and it was a close battle up until the end. Slovenia, however, showed composure and resilience in the key moments and eventually secured a 2-1 lead in the match. The fourth set, on the other hand, was one-sided – with Greece not standing any chance and Slovenia finishing the match in style to celebrate their first victory in Pool F and add three points to their tally.

Evangelia Chantava, player of Greece: “Actually the Slovenian team did perform really good, they had an amazing defence game. We had some kind of a blackout in attack, so they could easily defend and we started doing many easy mistakes which was the key to the eventual Slovenian success.”

Dimitrios Floros, head coach of Greece: “I think our game was a little bit chaotic today, especially after the second set, we were neither good in reception nor with our serve, which was the main difference between us and the opponent.”

Marina Cvetanovic, team captain of Slovenia: “I think today we showed that we can play good Volleyball. We are very happy with this victory and especially with taking three points. It looked like Greece lost concentration at some point, which helped us in the crucial moments of the third set.”

Bruno Najdic, head coach of Slovenia: “It was a close match but we played very well. We were under the pressure a bit after playing against the Czech team yesterday and losing so badly. Greece did not play bad at all but it’s a little bit of a shame that we gave them a chance in the second set but. However, what really matters in the end is the victory – and the three points that go with it.”

Belarus vs. Czech Republic 3-2 (20-25, 25-22, 19-25, 26-24, 15-10)

In the last match of Pool F Belarus and the Czech Republic were expected to fight for the provisional leadership in the group. Belarus needed to take three points to achieve this feat and things did not start in the best way as the home side easily won the opening set. However, soon after that Belarus were on fire and even the substitutions made by the German-born coach of the Czechs, Alexander Waibl, could not help for long. In the end Belarus showed a classy performance to win the match at the tie-break.

The first set was a close race before the Czechs claimed a two-point lead at the second technical time-out. Though they were far from displaying their best performance of the weekend, the home side won the set 25-20 with local star Aneta Havlickova contributing as many as 10 points. The battle continued in the second set but this time Belarus were able to keep the pace of their opponents and were well marshalled by their captain, the experienced Aksana Kavalchuk. A few unforced errors by the Czechs made things easy for Belarus that restored equality in the match.

Belarus started set 3 in style claiming a four-point lead; as a result, the Czech coach decided to go for some substitutions and this move paid dividends. The players that came in from the bench changed the course of the game, fought with a lot of energy and supported by the local fans the Czechs won the set and retook the lead in the match. The fourth set was probably the most exciting of the whole weekend – the teams exchanged the lead back and forth, the Czechs missed out on two match balls before Belarus eventually called for a tie-break. The visitors put a lot of pressure on the Czech receivers with their serve and remained calm also in the most challenging moments – something which the hosts were not able to match. Too many mistakes on the Czech side of the net paved the way with gold for Belarus that cruised to their third 3-2 win in as many matches they contested in Brno over the weekend.

Hanna Kalinouskaya-Guengoer, player of Belarus: “We played three five-set matches in three days and we fought up until the last drop of energy we had. We always believed in our chances, our coach kept telling us that we could win even when we were trailing and it finally happened! We are just really happy with the result.”

Angelo Anibal Vercesi, assistant coach of Belarus: “Once more it was 3-2 for us and we are very happy with this victory. We have been showing throughout the weekend that we have a good team. We played tactically very good, especially with our serve and block, and our defence was just perfect. The Czech Republic have a very good team but this time luck was on our side.”

Aneta Havlickova, team captain of the Czech Republic: “Today it was a very close fight, the first two sets were good for us and the same applies to the third where some players from the bench came in and they helped us improve our performance. Unfortunately, we lost today but I personally think it wasn’t such a bad match and now we have to prepare for the next round of matches in Slovenia.”

Alexander Waibl, head coach of the Czech Republic: “In general Belarus have a team which is a way more experienced than ours, they played together already at the European Championship back in 2013, and they know how to play this kind of tournaments. Yesterday’s victory was for us very demanding and we could see some girls were not fresh enough, they hadn’t enough energy to play at a high level only 24 hours later. As a result, I made some substitutions and some players from the bench came in. We had two match balls at the end of the fourth set, we had our chances but we did not use them and this cost us the victory.”

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