Varna, Bulgaria, September 7, 2016. Russia filled up the last semi-final vacancy at the 2016 CEV U20 Volleyball European Championship - Men after beating Turkey by 3-1 (25-27, 25-19, 25-18, 25-21) and finishing second in Pool II. The Turks finished fourth and will be contesting the fifth place in Plovdiv. Italy finished unbeaten on top of the pool standings. They opened the last competition day in Varna with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-21) victory over Belarus leaving their opponents at the bottom without a single victory. A spot among the top eight teams of the championship was at stake, when the Czech Republic and Serbia locked horns in the second match of the day. After a five-set battle, the Balkan team emerged victorious with 3-2 (20-25, 25-20, 25-20, 23-25, 15-12), booked their ticket to Plovdiv and sent the Czechs packing.
The leader in Pool II Italy started the match with confidence and had a 16-13 lead at the second technical time-out. The Italians managed to further improve their serving. Paolo Zonca scored and ace, Yuri Romanò made a kill block and Michele Totire’s players won by 25-18.
Italy had full control on the court and stayed in the lead through almost the entire second set. Even when they failed to convert their first three set points, it did not look like they were under any pressure and closed the set at 25-23 on their fourth.
Italy held the advantage during the whole third set. After a perfect triple block they took an 18-15 lead. Roberto Cominetti scored an ace to make it 21-16. Through the rest of the set, without much ado, Italy moved on to win their last set in Varna by 25-21.
Belarus’s Kiryl Kubar and Italy’s Gabriele Di Martino shared the top scorer honours with 12 points each.
Michele Totire, coach of Italy: “Now I am happy, but the next part of this competition is ahead of us and it will be very hard. I saw the results in the other pool and I think that the level in Plovdiv is higher than here. Some matches finished after five sets and there we had one or two surprises – Ukraine and Bulgaria. At this moment I do not know which team will be our opponent in the semi-finals, but actually it does not matter. What is important to me is my players to forget the results here and to restart their minds because the toughest matches will be in Plovdiv. I am happy because we won five matches against teams like Russia, Serbia and Turkey, but now our minds must be focussed on Plovdiv.”
Uladzimir Maisiyevich, coach of Belarus: “We were in a really tough pool with a lot of strong opponents, but for us to be part of this championship was a honour and something really big. My players played against some of the best teams in Europe and now they have some precious international experience, which will be very important for them in future.”
Czech Republic vs. Serbia 2-3 (25-20, 20-25, 20-25, 25-23, 12-15)
The opposite of the Czech Republic Matej Smidl was on fire in the first minutes of the match helping his team take a 16-15 lead at the second technical time-out. Patrick Indra scored a kill block to give a critical three-point advantage to Czechia for 22-19. In the end, middle-blocker Martin Hudak made a perfect one-man block and the Czech Republic won by 25-20.
Serbia started really well in the second set and with fewer unforced errors, good serving and perfect blocking they took a five-point advantage at 10-5. Nikola Meljanac scored a one-man block, Miran Kujundzic made a powerful counter-attack and Serbia led by 16-12 at the second time-out. Until the end, the Czech Republic made too many easy mistakes and after Martin Hudak served out of bounds Serbia won the second set by 25-20.
Led by Matej Smidl, the Czech Republic managed to gain a three-point advantage by first technical time-out of the third set, but after that the Czechs started to commit too many unforced errors and Serbia took over the lead for 16-14 at the second mandatory break. The captain of Serbia David Mehic and Nikola Meljanac scored some aces to help their team cruise to a comfortable 25-20 at the end.
With perfect work in blocking, the Czech Republic opened a 9-5 lead n the fourth set. Matej Smidl was just unstoppable in attack and Czechia extended it to 13-7. Ivan Pelikan’s players had a comfortable five-point advantage at 18-13 before they started to make too many mistakes in attack again allowing Serbia to take over at 23-22. But again Matej Smidl was the hero in the end – a powerful spike and a one-man block against the Serbian captain David Mehic gave the Czechs a 25-23 win.
Both teams started well in the tie-break, but after two unforced errors in attack by Matej Smidl, Serbia took a 10-7 advantage. Martin Hudak made another mistake while passing the ball and Serbia extended it to 12-8. Marek Sulc served out of bounds to give the Serbs a 15-12 win and the ticket to Plovdiv.
Aleksa Polomac, player of Serbia: “We had a perfect opponent against us today. We have played against them in previous years and we know them very well. We managed to regroup in the tie-break, to adapt to the situation and to win. Now we are absolutely motivated to continue with more victories in Plovdiv where we will fight for the fifth place.”
Vladimir Vasovic, coach of Serbia: “This is a great victory and a great success for us! Now we will go to Plovdiv with a lot of optimism. In Varna we had three five-setter wins. This shows that our team is mentally strong in the difficult moments. It was tough, but my players showed that they have qualities to play good Volleyball. Our next destination is Plovdiv where we will try to do our best and finish this championship in the best way.”
Russia vs. Turkey 3-1 (25-27, 25-19, 25-18, 25-21)
In the first minutes of the match, Adis Lagumdzija was on fire for Turkey and they had a one-point advantage at the first technical time-out. Both teams continued to play equal, when Abdullah Cam made a kill block for 19-16. Mehmet Bedestenloglu’s players continued to have the advantage in the score until they made some errors in attack and Russia managed to tie it at 23-23. In the conclusive moments both teams had good side-out, but in the end Turkey showed some great defence – Lagumdzija saved a difficult ball and setter Ogulcan Yatgin gave credit to his opposite Abdullah Cam, who closed the set at 27-25.
After the second technical time-out of the second set Dmitry Yakovlev made a one-man block against Cam and after that finished a long rally with a powerful spike to help Russia to an 18-15 lead. In the final moments of the set Mikhail Nikolaev’s players were calmer and made fewer unforced mistakes than their opponents and closed the second by 25-19.
The third set was а completely different story. Turkey made some unforced errors in the beginning and Russia led by 8-6 at the first technical time-out. Konstantin Abaev’s perfect blocks stopped the most dangerous Turkish player Lagumdzija. Ivan Piskarev and Anton Semyshev shone with powerful spikes and Russia had a six-point advantage at 12-6. Abaev surprised the Turkish defence with clever spikes and after another mistake on the other side, Russia led by 16-9 at the second technical time-out. The Russians had full control on the court thanks to their serves, which destroyed the Turkish reception, and Mikhail Nikolaev’s players won the third set by 25-18.
Turkey showed a great desire to change the course of the match and after perfect work in defence and attack they took a four-point advantage by 5-1 in the beginning of the fourth set. Burak Cevik made another perfect spike and Turkey led by 8-3 at the first technical time-out. The players coached by Mehmet Bedestenloglu could not manage to keep this high level of performance, started to make a lot of errors and Turkey had only a point advantage at the second technical time-out. The biggest problem for Turkey was these easy mistakes and Russia won the set by 25-21 and with it the match 3-1.
Dmitry Yakovlev hammered out 25 points for Russia to become the top scorer of the match. His teammate Anton Semyshev added another 18. Adis Lagumdzija and Abdullah Cam were Turkey’s best scorers with 16 points each.
Konstantin Abaev, captain of Russia: “Turkey are a strong team and, realising the importance of this match, we started a little bit nervous and made too many unforced errors in the first set. On the other side of the net everything in the Turkish game was great and we ended up losing the first set. But after that we started to play better in blocking and attacking and we won. Now we will play against Poland, another great team. We played against them earlier this summer, so we know them. We will try to do our best and I hope to win.”
Dmitry Yakovlev, player of Russia and top scorer of the match: “We definitely started the match badly. We struggled a lot in the first set. We made a lot of errors, but after that everything was perfect and we managed to win. It will be a very interesting semi-final against Poland. They are a very good team, but we are also well prepared, so let’s see what happens.”
Adis Lagumdzija, player of Turkey: “Russia played better than us in all aspects of the game. They managed to keep a higher level of performance and they deserved to win. It is not finished yet. Our goal now is the fifth place. We will play against the hosts, Bulgaria. They are a good team, but I hope to win.”
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