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22/09/2016 22:31
Road to #EuroVolleyW – Yellow Tigers and Lionesses make it four wins in a row
2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Women

Luxembourg, September 22, 2016. The second round of qualifications to the 2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women resumed on Thursday with five matches on schedule across three pools. Belgium’s Yellow Tigers and Bulgaria’s Lionesses extended their winning streaks to four matches in a row in Pool B and E, respectively – with Bulgaria dropping their first set so far. Spain improved their win-loss record to 3-1 – a feat achieved also by Slovakia in Pool D. The competition will continue on Friday with as many as 11 matches on schedule as the race to claim a spot in the Final Round taking place next year in Azerbaijan and Georgia is slowly but surely reaching its climax. 

Pool B

Spain vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-16)

Everything went just fine for Spain as they opened the programme of the second round robin tournament in Pool B at Lotto Arena in Antwerp on Thursday afternoon. The Spaniards rushed to a compelling 13-4 lead in the opening set which seemed to set the tone of the match before Bosnia and Herzegovina scored five points in a row with Ajla Paradžik serving (13-9). A Spanish time-out somehow stopped that storm but Bosnia and Herzegovina were able to close within one point at 23-22 following the aces scored by Vera Kostic. Spain coach Pascual Saurin asked for another time-out and two block-outs eventually sealed a 25-22 set win for the Spaniards.
The course of the second set was pretty similar – with Spain leading 12-4 but some unforced errors helped Bosnia and Herzegovina reduce their deficit to five points at 17-12. However, after that short blackout, good serving and a number of mistakes from the other side of the net helped Spain win the second set by 25-18. Spain ‘destroyed’ any Bosnian hopes of a comeback early in the third set where they claimed a massive 9-0 lead with Helia Gonzalez standing behind the service line. Jessica Rivero added some blocks to the Spanish tally but the Spaniards suffered a lack of concentration halfway through which helped Bosnia and Herzegovina score a few more points. However, some more blocks, the athletic power of Milagros Collar and an attack by Gonzalez finished it all off for a 3-0 Spanish win.

Pascual Saurin, head coach of Spain: “It was a pretty difficult match for us, as we obviously suffered a drop of concentration in the third set.”

Smail Pezerovic, assistant coach of Bosnia and Herzegovina: “This is not the real Bosnian team that made it through the first round of qualifiers to progress to this tournament. We are missing some injured players.”

France vs. Belgium 0-3 (15-25, 12-25, 15-25)

After Spain’s victory earlier in the afternoon, the Yellow Tigers re-captured the leadership in Pool B with a convincing win over their French opponents. The home team didn’t drop a single set cruising to a 3-0 win before an ecstatic home crowd in Antwerp.
As if they wanted to show what they learnt in the two years they spent together at the French top team RC CANNES, setter Ilka Van de Vyver and powerhouse Freya Aelbrecht immediately stormed to a comfortable 9-2 lead. Only Héléna Cazaute, at 18 years of age the youngest player on the French side, managed to avoid the impressive local block once in a while. The other spikers saw many attempts countered by a ruthless Laura Heyrman, who closed out the first set at 25-15.
Just two days before turning 17, teenager talent Britt Herbots offered herself an early birthday present by opening the second set with another breakaway for 10-3. French coach Magali Magail’s substitutions couldn’t turn the tide, and captain Charlotte Leys pushed her team to 25-12.  With Britt Herbots eventually topping the charts (15 points), Belgium cruised to another 25-15 in the third set to seal their 3-0 victory.
Héléna Cazaute, French top scorer with six points: “The score today is really tough, especially after our close 1-3 loss against this same team last week. But we did not play aggressive enough. We’ve now lost all our chances of qualifying, and yet we’ll try our very best to win the two upcoming ties.”

Valérie Courtois, libero of Belgium: “We played a lot better than last week, when we only had a narrow margin, eventually beating France 3-1. Today, our serve caused a lot of trouble in their back row, and with our block we created a lot of counterattacks. Yet, we hope France will help us a little by giving Spain a hard time in the next game.”

Pool D

Slovakia vs. Israel 3-1 (25-15, 25-23, 21-25, 27-25)

Slovakia claimed on Thursday another 3-1 victory over Israel – the second in only a few days for they had achieved the same result also this past weekend in Portugal. However, Israel were off to a flying start and did not make things easy for the Slovakians. Israel started making mistakes after the first technical time-out and their coach Arie Selinger stopped the game at 13-8 for Slovakia. Though he tried to find a way to stabilise the performance of his players, Slovakia comfortably cruised to a landslide 25-15 set win.

Israel played at a much higher level in the second set. They only trailed by one or two points up to 14-13 for Slovakia. At this stage, Nikola Radosova came to serve and she scored three times in a row for the Slovakians. Israel responded the same way to make it 17-17 and after that edged ahead as their captain Galit Devash closed a long and spectacular rally. The teams exchanged the lead back and forth through the end of the set but Slovakia showed more focus to claim a 2-0 lead in the match.

After losing two sets, Israel played with more energy and Slovakia did not find it easy to score. Israel claimed a five-point lead to prompt a Slovakian time-out. The score was levelled at 20-all but Israel showed much composure to take set 3 and extend the match.

The teams fought for each point from the start of the fourth set. Trailing 4-7, the Slovakians scored three points in a row as they were supported by their countrymen of the men’s national team watching the game from the stands – and closed in at 7-8 at the first technical time-out. Ella Carolina Saada served three times in a row to move the score to 11-8 for Israel and after that every time Slovakia got closer, they made some mistakes and gave easy points away to Israel. The Israelis played without feeling any pressure as they had nothing to lose but after a time-out, Slovakia regrouped and with four serves in a row by their captain Jaroslava Pencova they equalised at 21-all. Slovakia played with much focus towards the end of the set and they eventually took it 27-25 – and with it the match as well (3-1).

Marek Rojko, head coach of Slovakia: “My team played pretty good and at some point they started playing bad, I do not know why. We need to perform with more consistency throughout the whole match. However, it is important that we could take three points from this match. My plan is to put pressure on the opponents and deliver a good game as we did in the fourth set. Anyway, it was important to take three points and cement our second place in the pool.”

Arie Selinger, head coach of Israel: “It was a tough match and we should have played better than we actually did.”

Pool E

Switzerland vs. Romania 0-3 (12-25, 11-25, 14-25) 

Romania started their home campaign in Piatra Neamt with a compelling 3-0 victory in their matchup with Switzerland. Middle blocker Nneka Onyejekwe top scored for the home side with 12 points as Laura Kuenzler recorded five markers for Switzerland in their losing effort.

Romania displayed solid defence in the opening set and this helped their setter Alexandra Alice Kapelovies feed in the best way outside spikers Adina Salaoru and Cristina Cazacu. Switzerland tried to put up a fight with the help of Kuenzler and Madlaina Matter but spike after spike Romania piled up a 16-7 lead at the second technical time-out. The first set finished at 25-12 for Romania and the home side re-started in the same way in the second period – Onyejekwe and Salaoru contributed to 8-7 and 16-9 leads as Romania wrapped it up for another commanding 25-11 win. Romania imposed their rule also in the third set – leading 8-5 and 16-9 before finishing it all off at 25-14 to celebrate a well-deserved 3-0 victory.

Bulgaria vs. Montenegro 3-1 (26-28, 25-11, 25-12, 25-18)

Montenegro put some pressure on Team Bulgaria only in the first set. After that, the difference between the two teams started to become evident, this resulting in a fairly easy victory for Bulgaria, the fourth in a row in the pool. Best player of the match was Bulgaria opposite Emiliya Nikolova who contributed with 20 points to her team’s final tally.

The first set started in the best way for Bulgaria. The power of Nikolova helped the team lead 8-6 at the first technical time-out. Montenegro did not seem to be able to pose a threat in the early stages of the match. Bulgaria kept a three-point lead at the second technical time-out but the set became a much closer affair towards the end (23-23) when Montenegro’s top scorer Tatjana Bokan changed the course of the match for 28-26.

In the second set Bulgaria improved their reception with Elitsa Vasileva scoring time and again and excellent blocks by Mariya Dancheva contributing to a landslide 25-11 win.

Bulgaria kept the momentum in the third set showing a very solid performance in all aspects of the game. Nikolova and Vasileva were unstoppable at the net. At the second break, the players coached by Ivan Seferinov were already 16-10 in front, and there was nothing that Montenegro could do to come back.

Bulgaria continued their triumphal march in the fourth set with their amazing opposite Nikolova leading the way towards a 25-18 that sealed their 3-1 victory.

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