Italy and Turkey off to flying start in #FIVBWomensU23 qualifier, Bulgaria surprise Serbia
2017 FIVB U23 Women's Volleyball World Championships - European Qualification
Vrnjačka Banja, Serbia, July 27, 2016. Italy lived up to their status of pre-favourites in the quest for a ticket to next year’s FIVB U23 Women’s Volleyball World Championship opening the programme of the European qualifier in Vrnjačka Banja with a 3-0 victory (26-24, 25-21, 29-27) over Poland. Later in the afternoon Bulgaria came back from two sets down to cause a sensation with their tie-break victory over hosts Serbia (22-25, 17-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-9). The matchup between Turkey and Croatia completed the programme of the opening day with the young Turks cashing an easy 3-0 win (25-18, 25-11, 25-16). The eventual winners and runners-up of the single round robin tournament will qualify for next year’s World Champs in Slovenia.
Poland vs. Italy 0-3 (24-26, 21-25, 27-29)
The three sets Poland and Italy contested on Wednesday afternoon followed a similar pattern, with Italy claiming a comfortable lead early on, and Poland coming back strong, before the ‘Azzurrine’ were the ones to celebrate at the end of each set. Even the injury sustained by Vittoria Piani and the courage shown by Poland could not prevent Italy from sweeping three sets in a row. The most exciting one was the third and last one where Poland had two set balls but Italy erased both and eventually finished it all off with an ace by Alice Pamio.
Italy coach Luca Cristofani commented: “It was incredible, my team played beyond their possibilities. We played without our best player, our captain, and yet we won and took three points from this match.”
Italy setter Jennifer Boldini could hardly find the right words to describe her feelings: “We are very happy with the result because we were not quite sure we could make it work. I am confident that this qualification tournament can finish in the best way for us.”
Poland star player Malwina Smarzek said: “We gave it all but it looks like this was not enough. We kept on trying but I do not know what happened. Tomorrow we have another match, we will be playing against a strong Turkish team, we’ll see.”
Serbia vs. Bulgaria 2-3 (25-22, 25-17, 21-25, 22-25, 9-15)
After two sets, it looked like the match was going to be an easy ride for Serbia, but it turned out to be the opposite. Bulgaria stormed back from two sets down to win at the tie-break, performing in a much better way in the second ‘half’ of the match where the hosts looked lost and kind of shaken. One of their main players – Katarina Lazović, wasn’t able to help her team because of an injury while Bulgaria had some really loud support by a bunch of fans well equipped with drums.
Among the spectators in attendance at Vlade Divac sports hall were the players of Serbia’s U20 men’s national team, who are currently staying in Vrnjačka Banja to prepare for their respective Balkan and European Championships.
Bulgaria coach Nikolay Ivanov was evidently proud of his team: “We played two half-times. One half was for Serbia and the other one for us. We started very bad, without reception and block, but we changed our rhythm and eventually won the match.”
Serbia coach Marijana Boričić remained confident despite the setback and said this is only a start: “When your outside hitters do not play as good as they can, it is very hard to win the match. Because of the situation with Katarina Lazović we could not use our substitutes in the way we should, but I think this is only the beginning of our journey and we still have a long way to go.”
Serbia captain Sladjana Mirković said: “We did our best under these circumstances. Tomorrow we play against Croatia and I hope we can win. It will be good for our morale.”
Turkey vs. Croatia 3-0 (25-18, 25-11, 25-16)
The last match of the day in Vrnjačka Banja was quite one-sided. Turkey showed all their power in the matchup against Croatia and cruised to an easy, three-set win. Croatia stayed in front only up until the second technical time-out of the first set, but after that everything went just easy for Turkey.
Turkey coach Ferhat Akbaş was obviously happy with such good start: “Croatia is a really strong opponent. We had to push hard to win this game. They started without any pressure and that could have been a problem for us.”
Croatia coach Miroslav Aksentijević commented: “We knew that they are one of the best teams competing here. Sometimes we could play at their level, but in some other moments we just couldn’t keep their pace. We made too many service mistakes and as a result we couldn’t stand a real chance of winning this match.”
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