Bulgaria, Turkey, Italy celebrate third hurrah in Vrnjačka Banja
2017 FIVB U23 Women's Volleyball World Championships - European Qualification
Vrnjačka Banja, Serbia, July 30, 2016. With one round of matches still to go three teams – Bulgaria, Turkey and Italy – are still in contention for two spots at stake to represent Europe at next year’s FIVB Women’s U23 World Championship. Bulgaria opened the programme of the next-to-last competition day at the European qualifier in Vrnjačka Banja by thrashing Poland 3-0 to improve their win-loss record to 3-1 and stay in the race for a spot to represent Europe at the major tournament that Slovenia will be hosting in 2017. Later in the afternoon Turkey emulated Bulgaria and claimed their third victory in the competition as well by pulling out a 3-1 win in their matchup with hosts Serbia. Italy did the same later in the evening cruising to a compelling 3-0 win over outsiders Croatia. The eventual winners and runners-up of the single round robin tournament will qualify for next year’s World Championship.
Poland vs. Bulgaria 0-3 (17-25, 20-25, 24-26)
Don’t ever underestimate Bulgaria. They came in Vrnjačka Banja saying they could cause a sensation and they are living up to their statement. They played a perfect match against Poland making only one mistake in attack. Their desire to win was visible in every move. Even when they were leading comfortably, the players from the Balkan country never stopped running for every ball leaving Poland without any chance of success.
Malgorzata Jasek, who top scored for Poland with 20 points, said that her team’s reception was a disaster: “They served very well and we didn’t know how to stop them. We didn’t execute what we wanted, we didn’t serve aggressive enough and this defeat is the result of that. I think this was our worst game not only on this tournament.”
Bulgaria Mirela Shahpazova was really excited about the victory: “This is our sweetest win. We served very good and they couldn’t stop us. We played as a team today.”
Before the tournament Bulgaria coach Nikolay Ivanov had said his team could be the surprise package of the competition: “At first we could only think about it. We did good scouting and identified the right tactics. It wasn’t like two days ago with Italy, where we had a match ball, but we didn’t use it. Today, we finished it all off with our first opportunity to do so.”
Poland coach Waldemar Kawka said he didn’t like his team’s performance: “Right from the beginning of the match we didn’t follow the tactics we had agreed upon. In the end we could only make it a bit of a closer race, but nothing more than that.”
Turkey vs. Serbia 3-1 (23-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-20)
Turkey secured their third win in Vrnjačka Banja and on Sunday will play against Bulgaria for a spot to compete at the 2017 World Championship. After this setback, Serbia’s chances to play in Slovenia next year have vanished. The hosts claimed the first set of the match with Turkey and after that the three that followed were quite similar in the way they unfolded. It was a close race until the very end with Turkey pressuring Serbia to claim the deciding points.
After the victory Turkey coach Ferhat Akbaş already looked forward to the final day of the tournament: “Any final decision on who qualifies for the World Championship has been postponed to the final day. All teams have been working very hard to be here, so I don’t expect it will be easy against Bulgaria. However, we will do everything we can to win.”
Turkey star player Tutku Burcu Yüzgenç didn’t have much time to celebrate: “Yesterday’s match helped us get a boost of confidence. Today we made the difference after winning the second and third sets, two in a row. We are very happy, but nevertheless we have stay focussed and prepare for tomorrow.”
Serbia coach Marijana Boričić said this result reflects the reality of things: “When you lose it is normal to be unhappy. If my team was complete, we would be able to make it to the World Championship. We showed all our quality in this match and I want to congratulate my players for what they have showed here so far.”
Nataša Čikiriz said Team Serbia played at their best: “I am disappointed because we won’t go to Slovenia and compete at next year’s World Championship, but at this stage we have to be realistic. We had many problems with injuries, maybe also little time to prepare for this tournament. However, we will focus on showing our best tomorrow to finish this tournament on a high note.”
Italy vs. Croatia 3-0 (25-23, 25-22, 25-16)
Thanks to their victory in the matchup against Croatia, Italy will have one more chance to try and qualify for the World Championship taking place next year in Slovenia. Croatia, on the other hand, can also be satisfied because on Saturday night they delivered their best performance so far in Vrnjačka Banja. In the first and second sets Italy had to play their best in order to score. And, in the end, they used all of their energy and mental strength to take maximum three points from this match.
Italy coach Luca Cristofani was fully aware of the importance of Sunday’s match against hosts Serbia: “Tonight we provided the youngest girls in our team with an opportunity to play and tomorrow we will see, what we definitely can do with that. If we win, it will be a miracle.”
Croatia player Lea Cvetnić said she was satisfied with her team’s performance: “We showed a lot of commitment tonight, but Italy is Italy. They play in big clubs and we don’t. However, we aren’t disappointed with this result.”
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