Nitra, Slovakia, September 1, 2016. After Russia, Turkey and Serbia secured their spots in the semi-finals at the 2016 CEV U19 Volleyball European Championship – Women, it was Belgium that followed them with a straight victory over France, celebrating their fourth win in the tournament. In the second game of the day Turkey confirmed their number one status in Pool I and claimed a 3-0 win versus Croatia that have to leave the tournament with five losses in as many matches. A great game was delivered by Slovakia and Bulgaria, when the hosts celebrated their third #EuroVolleyU19W victory to close the pool stage in third place.
The semi-finals will be held on Saturday with Belgium against Russia (20:00) and Turkey playing Serbia (17:30). All matches will be streamed live and for free on LAOLA1.TV!
Belgium vs. France 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 27-25)
France needed a win to have a chance of advancing to the classification games and started with a lot of fighting spirit in the first set. The service was the best weapon to put the French outside-spiker Manon Stragier under pressure who struggled with her reception for a balanced result at 4-4. The positive situation for the underdog from France changed with Belgium´s Silke van Avermaet at the service spot at 18-18. She proved her skills as one of the best servers at the #EuroVolleyU19W with 12 aces so far and troubled the France defence with two service winners and one block to 21-18. Outside-spiker Laura Flament had an easy mission to convert the third set ball at the net due to a reception fault of France to 25-22.
A close fight came over the second set with the Bleues which snatched an advantage of three points until the score of 14-11. Again it was the team of Fien Callens that responded with middle-blocker Hanne Coppens and an ace to turn the result to 16-15 until the second technical time-out. The game developed in a real thriller in the crunch time. France had three chances to gain their first set balls at 23-21 but they fell over their own nerves and acted too hectic in every rally. It became even worse as they couldn’t score their points in the attack to destroy it own possibilities with easy faults, while the “Yellow Tigers” made four consecutive point to punish France with a painful defeat at 25-23.
It seemed that it was too much for the French player as Belgium build up a substantial lead of four points with 21-17 in the third set. Nevertheless, the Team of Coach Philippe-Marie Salvan fought with all their passion and tunred the table to 24-22 to be in the closing position. As before, France missed their chances to win a set and gave the Belgium Team the opportunity for the next comeback. Top scorer Manon Stragier (14 points) made the last point to 27-25 and opened the Belgium party in Nitra.
Philippe-Marie Salvan, France coach: “It was not our best performance at this tournament. I am disappointed that we couldn’t win a set to reward us for the hard work. We already had these problems during the preparation for the European Championship and knew that we have to make it better here. In the end I would say that we had four good games, xcept the match against Slovakia. It was our goal to make it to the classification games and we did not reach it but I guess that my players learned a lot on this level.”
Fien Callens, Belgium coach: “I couldn’t have dreamt this before the tournament. We knew it would be very hard and you have to fight for every point in every game. I’m so proud of the girls. The tournament has been perfect and I’m looking forward to playing against Russia. We are going to have a great experience to play against the world’s best teams. I’m very glad little Belgium are one of the final four teams. We have things from our scout about Russia. He has really good contacts and we have a lot of information. Russia play a really typical system, not that difficult but they have big potential. They are tall players so it’s important to go with serve and have variation in your play. I would like to work tomorrow on that. The girls can now be loud and energetic but they know well that when I give one sign they have to be serious, no problem.”
Hanne Coppens, Belgium middle blocker: “We are feeling amazing right now. We won a thrilling game and we knew the victory was important. The feeling is wonderful and we are all very happy. We kept on fighting to finish the game and get the three points. I think we played Russia once at the World Championship and they were in our pool. We lost but we know they are tall and strong. We will prepare as good as possible. We knew all the teams were of a similar level here but now we’ve earnt the second place and that was our main goal. Anything else is a bonus.”
Croatia vs. Turkey 0-3 (21-25, 23-25, 11-25)
It was the game between the pool leaders from Turkey that were already qualified for the #EuroVolleyU19W semis and the winless team from Croatia. Onur Carikci changed his team on several positions and saw a levelled game in the first two sets. The favourites from Turkey surprised their opponents always in the end with a stronger service and block to complete the mission with 25-21 and 25-23 set wins. The third set was the time where Croatia lost their concentration and made a huge number of errors in every aspects of the game. The Turkish players didn’t let the opportunity slip away to celebrate an easy closer at 25-11. Especially the block led them to their fifth victory in a row. Turkey produced 13 blocks during the match, while the players of coach Marija Anzulovic recorded only two. Best scorer of the game was the Turkish outside-spiker Yasemin Özel who contributed 13 points, Croatian outside-spiker Bruna Ana Vrankovic scored 11 times.
Marija Anzulovic, Croatia coach: “Unfortunately, we never reached our highest level at this European Championship. The mental pressure was too high for my players. We are not experienced in playing a tournament on this level but this is the only way we can improve our performance. I really hope that the girls stay together and will have the chance to celebrate great victories in the future.”
Onur Carikci, Turkey coach: “I’m very happy because we finished first. Now the semi-final comes and I hope we can continue unbeaten. Our first target was to win our five matches in the pool. Now we move on and we want to reach the final. Before the start of the match we heard the Russia result and we knew we could make the perfect job. We know Serbia very well, like they do know us because before the start of the championship we played each other. The opponents don’t really matter, it’s about getting to the semi-finals.”
Bulgaria vs. Slovakia 2-3 (25-22, 15-25, 25-23, 14-25, 7-15)
Hosts Slovakia and Bulgaria battled for third place in Pool I in Nitra and started the first set with nervous hands to make five service errors before the first technical time-out (6-8). Neither team was able to claim a deciding advantage until the end of the set, when Bulgaria's outside-spiker Monika Krasteva snatched the lead for her team in the crunch time at 25-22.
Slovakia had a great service at the beginning of the second set, contributed by outside-spiker Karolina Fricova who made some great spikes to go past the block of her opponents (8-5). The biggest change was made with the Slovakian middle-blocker Simona Ciganikova at the service point who scored three service winners and had a large share on the advantage of nine points that Slovakia claimed at 15-6. It was going like clockwork for coach Eva Kosekova's players, but there were also too many mistakes on the other side of the net. However, the hosts went up to the massive score of 21-8 and did not get any pressure from the Bulgarian team. The Slovaks eventually prevailed 25-15.
The third set was marked by long rallies and a close fight between both teams, while Bulgaria profited from their outside-spikers Monika Krasteva and Ani Bozdeva which finally helped them find a way back into the game at 8-8 and also 17-17. It was the time when the Slovakian opposite Karin Sunderlikova took the command with three aces, mixed with a block by setter Dominika Ramajova and an attack error by Bulgaria to 22-17. As everyone thought that this would be the decider of the set, Bulgaria responded very well to stop the Slovakian run and the equaliser followed at 23-23. Finally, a rotation error by Slovakia and a Bulgarian double-block shocked the hosts at 25-23 and brought the set-lead back to the Bulgarians.
Supported by their amazing fans, the home side dominated the fourth set in every element and claimed a comfortable lead at the second technical time-out at 16-8. The way of playing looked the same compared to the second set and Slovakia finished it all off with almost the same score as in the second period (25-14).
The decider summarised the previous sets in a perfect way. Slovakia were the more effective team and grabbed a 4-0 lead, only to be stopped by a time-out of Bulgaria coach Dimo Tonev. His team reacted with four points in a row to 4-4 but lost their concentration immediately. An 11-3 run by Slovakia secured third place in Pool I and the lights were switched off at 15-7.
Dimo Tonev, Bulgaria coach: “I think the match had a lot of emotion and little Volleyball. Both teams made mistakes and now my team move on to the next phase. Without experience these things can happen. In all the matches my team could have played better but they are young and without experience. However, this is normal and I think it is good for the future. We played Italy three times in Bulgaria in friendlies and it was 3-2 each time. If it’s the same again it’s a good experience for my players.”
Eva Kosekova, Slovakia coach: “We started bad, we made lot of mistakes in service and also our attack was not good. Maybe we were a little bit tired after four matches. We knew that they have a good opposite and spiker and we concentrated on stopping them. After the hard defeat in the third set I told to my players that they need to concentrate and eventually did it. Our goal was to advance to the next round and we are happy that we have won three matches in our group. Germany is a strong opponent and we will fight for the best possible result.”
Karolína Fričová, Slovakia outside-spiker: “We made a lot of errors in the first set and were a little bit out of concentration. But I am happy that we came back and turned the match. Our goal was to qualify for the next round and we did it with three victories. That is a great result for our team. On the other side we were close to making it to the semi-finals and the defeat against Belgium still hurts. We will take a break during the rest day and look forward to the final weekend.”
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