Luxembourg, April 15, 2017. Bulgaria, Serbia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Belarus secured on Saturday their progression to the Final Round of the 2017 CEV U17 Volleyball European Championship – Men and they did so in emphatic style. The young ‘Lions’ from Bulgaria rallied to their third 3-0 victory in as many matches they contested on home soil in Pool A – and Serbia beat Croatia 3-0 to make sure they will finish first in Pool B. As for Belarus, they won the derby with Ukraine 3-0 to claim first place in Pool E and with it a ticket to Konya, Turkey – where the Finals of the inaugural #EuroVolleyU17M will take place in early July. The Netherlands and Belgium achieved that same feat in Pool C and D, respectively.
Pool A in Sofia (BUL)
Estonia improved their win-loss record in Pool A to 2-1 following their comprehensive 3-0 victory (25-12, 25-6, 25-11) over Iceland. “I am happy that today I could use most of the players who have started the previous matches from the bench,” said Estonia coach Toomas Jasmin. “I am also happy with our performance in yesterday’s match with Romania. Except for our loss to Bulgaria on the first day, I am happy with what we did in this tournament.” “It was another game and another experience for us,” said Iceland head coach Borja Vicente Gonzalez. “I wish my team had fought more but sometimes it seems like I am asking too much from them. We have been working together only for four days before this tournament but beside the results, I think that this is a good beginning for the future development of Volleyball in Iceland.”
Later in the afternoon, Bulgaria completed their triumphal march on home soil with a third 3-0 victory in as many matches. The young ‘Lions’ rallied to a 25-17 win in the first set of their matchup with Romania – with Petar Petrov finishing it off with an ace. The hosts remained focussed and concentrated in the second set too – they needed to win this one to secure their participation in the Final Round of the European Championship. Romania took the lead in the third set but the spikes by Petrov and an ace by Albert Albaadzh sealed a 27-25 win for the home side and with it their third 3-0 victory in the tournament. “Though I tried to stop them, these guys are so strong and managed to win again,” Bulgaria coach Dragan Ivanov joked. “I am happy with this team. We have great players, with a lot of potential, and we deserve to play in the finals of the European Championship.”
Pool B in Bar (MNE)
Serbia extended their winning streak in Pool B as they routed Croatia 3-0 (25-12, 25-23, 25-22) on Saturday to follow on their 3-0 victory over hosts Montenegro from 24 hours earlier. The young Serbian players set the pace of the game from start to end of the first set (8-4, 16-8) and Croatia could never really pose a threat to their opponent’s dominance (25-12). The second set was different – with Croatia keeping the score close as Serbia made a number of mistakes. Croatia rallied to a 12-7 lead, which they almost kept at the second technical time-out (16-12). Serbia fought back to level the score at 18-all and by serving strong they moved to the front before sealing a 25-23 win. The third set followed the same plot – with Croatia leading 6-3 and 12-5 before Serbia came back again, flipping the charts around and rallying to a 25-22 score to seal their second 3-0 victory in Bar.
“I have to acknowledge that we were the absolute favourites before the start of this tournament and we lived up to this status and role with two straight wins,” said Serbia coach Ognjen Bulic. “We accomplished our goal, which was to qualify for the European Championship. We felt more pressure in this match than we did when facing Montenegro because we won the first set very easily and my boys started the second set a way too relaxed. They lost focus and this caused us a lot of stress in the second and third sets, but anyway I am satisfied with the final result.”
Pool C in Vilvoorde (BEL)
Belgium needed to take ‘only’ two sets from their match with Latvia to secure their progression to the Final Round of this year’s U17 Men European Championship. They did more than that as they accomplished their task routing Latvia in three straight sets (25-17, 25-18, 25-15). The young Red Dragons claimed an early lead in the first set following blocks from Joost Peeters and spikes killed by Simon Plaskie – while putting much pressure on the opponent with their serve. This resulted in a 23% of success rate for the Latvian receivers, whereas that same figure stood at 60% for the hosts. Latvia stepped up their efforts in the second set and edged ahead at 11-9 with the help of Atis Krebss and Kristers Dardzans. However, Peeters and Seppe Rotty made the difference for Belgium and after taking the second set, the young Red Dragons secured their qualification for the Final Round.
“I am satisfied,” said Belgium coach Wim De Boeck. “Today we had to remain focussed and that is what my team eventually did. We were happy with having a day off yesterday, because the match with Poland was mentally and physically a tough one.”
Pool D in Palencia (ESP)
The Dutch delegation in Palencia wrapped up an outstanding day as the men’s team also qualified for the final round of their respective European Championship – as the U16 girls had done earlier in the afternoon. The Netherlands edged hosts Spain 3-1 (17-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-23) after coming back from a set down so to complete a memorable tournament for the ‘Oranjes’.
Pool E in Cherkasy (UKR)
Belarus claimed the ‘derby’ with Ukraine 3-0 (25-16, 25-11, 25-21) to complete the programme of Pool E and secure their progression to the Final Round of the U17 European Championship. Belarus were off to a solid start (4-0) and even though the hosts tried hard to break the rhythm of their opponents, they could not make up for their early deficit, which actually grew bigger and bigger towards the end of the first set (25-16). The fans in attendance cheered the home guys on with a lot of passion but the visitors had an edge in all aspects of the game – from reception to blocking – and set the tempo of the match from start to end. Ukraine could not stop the Belarusian star player Uladzislau Davyskiba who top scored in the end with 23 points – to become the most prolific player of the tournament held in Cherkasy.
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