Azerbaijan claim first round of women’s European League finals
2016 CEV Volleyball European League - Women
Nitra, Slovakia, June 30, 2016. Some 500 fans were in attendance on Thursday night as Slovakia played Azerbaijan in the first round of the 2016 CEV Volleyball European League – Women finals. Azerbaijan eventually cruised to a 3-1 victory (25-22, 18-25, 25-22, 25-20) to get the edge ahead of the re-match that will follow on Sunday, July 3 in Baku.
The first set was a close race in the early stages but with many service errors made by the Slovakian players. Home coach Marek Rojko asked for a time-out by the score of 5-4 for Azerbaijan after his players had missed five serves in a row. Azerbaijan continued to play very solid edging ahead by two, three points and with a positive streak towards the end of the set the visitors sealed their 25-19 win.
Slovakia fought back in the second set leading 3-1 and 8-5 but after the first technical time-out Azerbaijan played very aggressive and levelled the score at 11-all. Team captain Jaroslava Pencova, however, scored four points for Slovakia to move the score to 18-14 and the hosts eventually won the second set 25-18 on an ace by Michaela Abrhamova.
Azerbaijan’s better success rate in attack (41%) decided the outcome of the third set (25-22) before the fourth turned into an easy ride for the visitors that set the pace almost from start to end (8-1, 12-8, 16-10). However, a red card to Azerbaijan provided a boost of energy and confidence to the home team that briefly closed in at 19-21 before losing the set 25-20.
Slovakia coach Marek Rojko said: “I haven’t seen Azerbaijan playing as concentrated as they did today for a long time. Most of the time they underestimate us but today they did not. On the other hand, my players performed with a lot of respect towards the opponent and it took them one set to start playing as they can and enjoy the game. We made many service mistakes whereas Azerbaijan can count on one of the world’s best players, Polina Rahimova. We should have won the third set and things could have gone a different way, but we lost it and with it the match as well.”
Azerbaijan spiker Jana Kulan (Matiasovska) said: “Slovakia played very well and I have to acknowledge that Marek Rojko is doing a great job with this group of players. However, we will host next year’s European Championship and along the way to that event we kind of must win the European League. We did everything we could to win this match and we eventually made it happen. We are very motivated and have a strong team, but anything can happen in the second match and for sure Slovakia will not give up and let us win without putting on a fight.”
Click here for more info including detailed stats of the match