Azerbaijan seize historic European League crown before partisan crowd
2016 CEV Volleyball European League - Women
Baku, Azerbaijan, July 3, 2016. On Sunday Azerbaijan claimed also the second round of the 2016 CEV Volleyball European League – Women gold medal match with Slovakia, this time cruising to a commanding 3-0 win (25-15, 25-22, 25-20) to follow on the 3-1 away victory they had recorded on Thursday in Nitra. As a result, Azerbaijan claimed their first historic European League title in what was only their second appearance in the competition. Azerbaijan superstar Polina Rahimova received the award for the Most Valuable Player of the finals.
Everything went just easy for Azerbaijan in the opening set where Slovakia made a lot of service errors. The second set was a lot closer and more exciting, with both teams looking extremely determined to impose their rule, but Azerbaijan emerged victorious in the end by means of their superb blocks. At that stage, Azerbaijan had already secured they would seize the European League crown and even though they had to fight back after trailing in the early stages of the third set, the hosts eventually completed their show with a 3-0 victory.
Home star and MVP Polina Rahimova said: “It was not an easy victory. We did not have any breaks throughout this competition to recover both physically and mentally, but we did not stop our march and we kept on playing strong, eventually finishing it all off with this victory. This way we reached our main goal, to become eligible to play in the 2017 edition of the FIVB World Grand Prix. Though next year Azerbaijan will be hosting the European Championship and the Islamic Solidarity Games, this was one of our ultimate goals. We now need to keep on developing and growing our young players. We have to help them improve so that they will be ready to play at the next major competitions we will enter. I would like to thank all of our supporters; we could hear them throughout the entire match.”
Azerbaijan head coach Faig Garayev commented: “I am very happy that my team, with so many young players, won this tournament. Everyone expected our victory at last year’s European Games here in Baku but our semi-final loss to Turkey had a huge, negative impact on us. However, this is sport and anything can happen. Now in the European League we played ten matches and we won all of them. We played 70-80% of these matches away from home but this did not affect our performance and results. What I liked the most is that when we played abroad [in Montenegro, France and Slovakia] my players remained focussed also in the most difficult moments. Next year we have a number of important competitions – especially the European Championship and the Islamic Solidarity Games here in Baku. We have to be prepared for such tournaments because we will be playing much stronger teams and we have the responsibility resulting from playing at home.”
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