Italy come from behind to prevent second Bulgarian sensation, Serbia and Poland celebrate first victory
2017 FIVB U23 Women's Volleyball World Championships - European Qualification
Vrnjačka Banja, Serbia, July 28, 2016. On the second day of the European qualifier for next year’s FIVB U23 Women’s Volleyball World Championship in Vrnjačka Banja, Italy came back from two sets down and cancelled a match point for Bulgaria in the third set to celebrate their second win in as many matches after on Wednesday they had started their campaign by defeating Poland 3-0. Later in the afternoon hosts Serbia stormed back after losing the first set of their ‘derby’ with Croatia to pull out a 3-1 victory – their first hurrah in the tournament. To complete the programme of the second competition day, Poland made up for a 0-2 deficit to sweep three sets in a row and edge Turkey – one of the tournament’s favourites – at the tie-break and regroup after suffering a heavy 0-3 loss at the hands of Italy on Wednesday. The eventual winners and runners-up of the single round robin tournament will qualify for next year’s World Champs that will be taking place in Slovenia.
Italy vs. Bulgaria 3-2 (22-25, 20-25, 26-24, 25-14, 15-11)
Italy prevented Bulgaria from causing another sensation in Vrnjačka Banja – they had defeated Serbia on Wednesday – even though the players from the Balkan country were close to making another surprise – but eventually failed to capitalise on a match point they had in the third set. After two sets where Bulgaria delivered a terrific performance, the ‘Azzurrine’ came back strong and in what turned out to be a game of nerves, the Italians emerged victorious in the end. They started blocking, playing better reception and scoring aces, which was enough to break Bulgaria’s resistance.
Alice Pamio was one of the best scorers for Team Italy: “The power of our team is the character and here we are. After losing two sets we realised we had to change something and we started playing different. Tomorrow, we’ll have another difficult match, but we won’t stop here.”
Bulgaria coach Nikolay Ivanov: “We played better, even in the third set, but we didn’t know how to use that situation in our favour and when you don’t capitalise on such opportunities, it is hard to win in the end. We played good defence, but it looks like we didn’t have enough strength and stamina for another five-sets match.”
Italy coach Luca Cristofani remarked that his team played with glowing hearts: “We have three players born in 2000 and they, on the other hand, have professional players in their ranks, so our heart made the difference.”
Croatia vs. Serbia 1-3 (25-20, 9-25, 19-25, 15-25)
The fans in attendance in Vrnjačka Banja got something to celebrate on Thursday since hosts Serbia claimed their first win in the tournament in the matchup against Croatia. After dropping the first set, Serbia coach Marijana Boričić found a way to inspire her team, as she replaced Vanja Bukilić with Anastasija Sekulić and after that the hosts dominated the game. In the third set Croatia found a way to pose a threat to their opponents, but Serbia were able to keep control and cruise to a well-deserved 3-1 win.
Croatia Dinka Kulić deserved some nice words to the Serbian national team: “They are good and their results speak for themselves. However, I think we missed out on an opportunity tonight. We delivered a good performance in the first set, but we stopped there.”
Maja Aleksić was among the top scorers for Serbia: “In the first set we could see we were still paying the price for yesterday’s loss and the injury of one of our key players [Katarina Lazović]. I expected to win 3-0, but we needed some time to find the right winning mix and to claim a well-deserved win.”
Serbia coach Marijana Boričić said: “We started bad and we had to change something. This win is really important, but we still have ups and downs in our game. I cannot say that our quality is under question, but I think we didn’t have enough time to prepare for this tournament.”
Croatia coach Miroslav Aksentijević was satisfied, especially with what he got to see in the first set: “Serbia proved why it is one of the favourite teams in here. They played good and my team again started out good to play worse and worse afterwards, but I think we still did better than yesterday.”
Poland vs. Turkey 3-2 (24-26, 21-25, 25-22, 25-21, 15-12)
Poland and Turkey delivered a very unpredictable match, as the spectators in attendance couldn’t guess the eventual winner up to the very end. The desire to win was visible among both teams but in the end only Poland could celebrate. Turkey tried really hard to resist to their opponent’s comeback, but their blocks couldn’t prevent Poland from achieving a much desired victory.
Turkey coach Ferhat Akbaş said: “I am very angry and disappointed. We were leading 2-0, but we obviously had some problems in remaining focussed. Poland has a strong team and we couldn’t expect they would surrender and accept another heavy loss without putting on a fight.”
Poland top scorer Malwina Smarzek (25 points) said: “Yesterday we did not play as a team, but today things were totally different. It was visible before the match, during time-outs and also on the court that we were united and determined. This unity and cohesion helped us achieve this victory.”
Poland coach Waldemar Kawka was very happy: “We were able to overcome our difficulties and to control the game like top teams do. I hope we can continue to play in the same way also for the remainder of the tournament.”
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