Nitra, Slovakia, September 3, 2016. The grand finale is fixed. Serbia and Russia will fight for the European crown in a clash of the giants tomorrow, while Turkey and Belgium will finish the #EuroVolleyU19W in the game for the bronze medal. It is the first time in history that these teams meet in this under-age group to find out who will be the best team in Europe. The match will be a remake of the final Russia and Serbia contested at the 2015 CEV U18 Volleyball European Championship in Plovdiv, Bulgaria which Russia claimed by 3-2.
The final will be held on Sunday (18:00) and can be watched live and for free on LAOLA1.TV!
A comprehensive live gallery of the competition is available HERE.
2nd Semi-Final | Russia vs. Belgium 3-1 (19-25, 25-20, 25-18, 25-14)
The Yellow Tigers started their mission in a frantic manner to surprise the Russian favourites with a huge advantage of four points at the first technical time-out (8-4). Russia offered big problems in attack and succeeded only with just 23% of their attempts and had to watch how Belgium outside-spikers Yasmine Vleminckx and Manon Stragier scored point after point in a fabulous way to make it 16-12. It did not change during the next few rallies and Belgium stepped it up to a six-point lead which gave them the first set at 25-19.
Russia did not look shocked and increased the level and quality of their performance in the following set in an outstanding way with great serves and attacks as they made it 8-3. Belgium had more problems in handling the powerful Russian serves and were not in the position to produce successful attacks. Russian outside-spiker Anna Kotikova and middle-blocker Angelina Lazarenko acted more effectively to improve the offensive success rate to 43% in the second set, while the Belgium attack went down to 23%. With this advantage in their hand, the Russians led on the scoreboard the whole time and could keep the distance to the Belgium girls with a maximum of four points at 24-20. Captain Maria Vorobyeva converted the first set-point in a decisive way and levelled the semi-final at 1-1 with a 25-20 set win.
The 'Russian express' looked in full swing in the third set as setter Inna Balyko destroyed all of Belgium´s hopes with two service winners in a row and made the gap unreachable as the score displayed eight Russian set-balls at 24-16. Again, captain Maria Vorobyeva took the responsibility to block a Belgium attack for the 25-18 win. Svetlana Safronova´s squad used the momentum acquired in the previous periods to maintain the lead in the fourth set. The established dominance of Russia continued and it allowed them to close the match at 25-14 and book their ticket for the #EuroVolleyU19W final.
The best players of the game were Anna Kotikova (19 points) and Angelina Lazarenko (16 points).
Svetlana Safronova, Russia coach: “We are happy that we have reached the final, but I am not satisfied with the way we did it. We made too many mistakes during the whole game. I am sure that this will not be enough to beat Serbia in the final. We have to reduce the number of errors and need a strong service. However, the girls should enjoy the victory to get a positive feeling for tomorrow.”
Anna Kotikova, Russia outside-spiker: “It is a great feeling for us. Belgium started very good, but our number of mistakes made it easy for them. We have to change this before we start the final against Serbia. They have a very strong team and I think that it will be a great final.”
Fien Callens, Belgium coach: “After the first set I said we had to keep the way of playing with a good serve. I also warned them because Russia would make some changes. Their number five had problems with reception and the Russian coach took her off. The replacement didn’t make any mistakes and that changed the game. We couldn’t put enough pressure on them with our serve. We made no points in the third and fourth sets with our service. In the counter attack we made too many mistakes to hurt them. It’s good we are one of the teams in the final four and this game showed we belong here. We have been growing during the tournament and the pool match against Turkey was our second game. We’ve developed a style of play. We are the underdogs but we will see what is possible. We will go all out for the bronze medal. It’s a pity in Belgium we don’t have hard matches. I would like to play more matches like we did today.”
Charlotte Coppin, Belgium captain: “We were very surprised that we won the first set. We knew it would be difficult because Russia are good. We started with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We started in a goof flow but we knew they would fight back and it was hard. We always hoped it would be close but didn’t know what to expect. We wanted to play well and fight to see what happened. I think we have to play against Turkey like we did today and then we will have a chance of winning. A year ago at the U18 championship it was against Turkey and we won bronze so hopefully we can do it again.”
1st Semi-Final | Turkey vs. Serbia 0-3 (22-25, 23-25, 19-25)
The first #EuroVolleyU19W semi-final was opened with a service demonstration from Turkish captain Burcu Tutku Yüzgenc who contributed to a 16-13 lead for her teammates at the second technical time-out. With a strong block action, Serbia scored three blocks at the end of the set and changed the score totally in their favour to 21-19. In the end, the Serbians had fortune on their side as a serve by outside-spiker Katarina Lazovic touched the top of the net and fell onto the Turkish side of the court for 24-21. Turkey could defend one set-ball, but the following spike of Vanja Bukilic was too hard and it flew over her opponents´ block to make it 25-22.
The girls of Marijana Boricic reached an outstanding level at the beginning of the next set and gained a comfortable lead of three points at the first technical time out with a score of 8-5. The match came back with a great working block-defence system of Turkey to turn the score again to 16-13. It was a total rollercoaster for the watching spectators in Nitra, but the Serbians presented themselves in a more confident and experienced manner. Led by outside-spiker Katarina Lazovic, they closed the gap and ended a great period of play at 25-23.
Small details separated both teams in the last period. The score moved on a balanced level from 9-9 to 19-19 and neither team found a way to celebrate more than a two-point advantage. Despite all the effort, the Turkish players lost their focus and had to suffer six Serbian points in a row; a Serbian double-block closed the set at 25-19 and it caused huge celebrations in the Serbian camp. Katarina Lazovic left her mark with 18 points as the top-scorer of the game; Turkey Burcu Tutku Yüzgenc was the best player for her team with nine points.
It is the fourth final appearance in a row for reigning champions Serbia. Turkey, who won the trophy in 2012, missed their opportunity to reach the final after two years ago they settled for the bronze.
Marijana Boricic, Serbia coach: “I want to congratulate the girls because before the tournament we thought we would have been happy to reach the semi-finals because we had a very hard group. We started with a loss and since then we’ve played better with every match. Two years ago it was gold, so I hope it is again. The team were good in serve today and our captain was great in reception. They were two good elements. It was a good job by us. Serbian Volleyball would prove itself if we were to win. After the senior team took the silver medal at the Olympics, there is proof we have some new talent as well.”
Jovana Kocić, Serbia middle-blocker: “I’m very proud of my team because we were calm and gave our best. I’d like to congratulate the Turkish team because they are great girls and great players but we were better today. I’m so happy. Tomorrow we will give our best against Russia probably or maybe Belgium. Tomorrow if we win, I will have no words. Now it’s time to rest and prepare for tomorrow.”
Onur Carikci, Turkey coach: “We made a good game in each set until we reached the 20 points. At the moment I don’t understand what happened, maybe it was a mental problem. We have to refresh and forget this defeat. We want to win this medal and I hope that my players can finish the tournament with a positive feeling.”
You can follow the Championship also on Facebook and Twitter, with the official hashtag to be used for all of your posts and tweets being #EuroVolleyU19W!