The Netherlands claim first place in Pool A after strong showing with Croatia
2016 European Olympic Qualification - Women
Ankara, Turkey, January 7, 2016. After their compelling victory over hosts Turkey on Wednesday, the Netherlands extended their winning streak at the women's European Olympic Qualifier in Ankara and secured first place in their pool to shape up a semi-final clash with Italy. To complete their duties in the pool stage of the tournament the Oranje squad swept Croatia aside in three straight sets (25-19, 25-17, 25-23).
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The Netherlands vs Croatia 3-0 (25-19, 25-17, 25-23)
On Wednesday Croatia libero Matea Rajkovic said after the match with Germany: “Today our gameplan did not work, however I am proud of my girls. I’m sure that tomorrow we’ll show what we really can do on the field.” And it’s exactly that mentality that could clearly be seen in the beginning of the game with the Netherlands. Croatia started off far better than in their previous games, taking the lead at the first technical time-out (8-7). The Netherlands who were also bringing their best volleyball took over the lead after levelling the score at 11-11 and extended it at the second technical time-out (16-12). The Dutch players took a series of long and exciting rallies and this resulted in a 25-19 set win for the silver medallists from the 2015 EuroVolley.
Croatia were determined not to give up and started the second set again very strong taking an early lead 7-3. With Anne Buijs on service the Netherlands could come back to 7-7. A close neck-to-neck race unfolded up to the second technical time-out where Anne Buijs once again made the difference with a set of good services (16-13). From there on the Dutch girls were back on fire rushing towards the end of the second set, 25-17.
Determined to finish first in their group the Dutch players started the third set as they had finished the second. The Croatian girls however were not planning to go down without a fight, making it a tight game and overtaking the lead at 12-10. The set was heading towards a very close finish, where both teams had to put all their energy on the field to win their points (21-21). There was nothing more the Croatian team could do than to accept losing to a stronger opponent. The Netherlands finished pool play in first place after winning also the third set 25-23, putting another 3-0 on the scoreboards.
Matea Rajkovic said after the game: “Today we played much better than in our previous games, which makes me proud of my team, but the Netherlands were just stronger than us. Our coach made some changes in our team that produced good results, we had more energy and power and this is what was missing before. I think in the future we’ll do much better, we have many young girls and we can only grow as a team.”
Anne Buijs who finished the game as best server with three aces said: “I am relieved that we won the game and claimed the first place in the pool today after a great game yesterday. We passed very good and our blocking also improved by the end of each set. Our coach said we had to put more pressure with our service and I’m happy that in the second set I could contribute to that.”
“That ticket to Rio is still far away, but we made a big step into the right direction. I don’t have a preference on who to play in the semi-finals as all teams here are strong, but I would love to play the final. At least we would be sure to finish among the top 3, so let us wait and see which team will be our opponent in the next round,” she added looking forward to the semi-finals.