Nitra, Slovakia, September 4, 2016. Russia are the gold medallists of the CEV U19 Volleyball European Championship – Women after beating Serbia 3-0 (26-24, 25-19, 25-18) to crown a fabulous tournament with the gold medal. It is the second title in a row for the squad of Svetlana Safronova after her team claimed gold at the 2015 CEV U18 Volleyball European Championship in Bulgaria where they also beat Serbia in the final. Turkey complete the podium in Nitra and celebrated a straight-sets win over Belgium in the bronze medal game.
It is the first time Russia have won the tournament since their gold medal performance in 1994. Russia - taking into account also the results claimed by the Soviet Union - have now claimed 19 medals, with 15 golds, three silvers, and one bronze. Serbia celebrated their fourth silver medal, but failed to defend the title after their triumph two years ago in Estonia.
A comprehensive live gallery of the competition is available HERE.
FINAL | Serbia vs. Russia 0-3 (24-26, 19-25, 18-25)
The final started predictably tight between the two Volleyball giants. Serbia tried to set the pace with outside-spiker Katarina Lazovic who scored seven points in the first set. She was not stopped until the second technical time-out, where her team still had a 16-13 lead on their side and needed just nine more points to finish the set. However, the girls of coach Svetlana Safronova stepped up the quality of their performance especially in blocking (four in the first set) to stop their opponents´ attackers several times and level the score at 18-18. A thrilling finale was created as the score reached 23-23. An ace by Angelina Lazarenko that touched the net and fell onto the Serbian side of the court secured the first set ball, which was defended by Serbia. But two rallies later, the improved Russian block took the first period with a crushing stop at 26-24.
Russia gained the first advantage of the second set with setter Inna Balyko serving and an ace made it 11-10, followed by two Serbian attack errors to increase their lead to 13-10. Serbia made it too easy for Russia as again there were three offensive faults in a row which contributed to a lead of 20-16. Everyone in the hall could see the determination of the Russian girls by now, who continued to play with a fast reception. Middle-blocker Angelina Lazarenko closed the second set at 25-19.
The champions-to-be continued to play with even more confidence in the last period. Outside-spiker and eventual MVP Anna Kotikova found more and more gaps in the Serbian block to improve the score to 16-11 at the second technical time-out. The Russian dominance was displayed the few last minutes in the perfect way and gold was confirmed as they won the final set 25-18 in Nitra.
Svetlana Safronova, Russia coach: “I am very proud of my team. It is our second European Championship victory in a row. This is one of the greatest moments of my career. Everyone worked hard to achieve this result and it was very tough to go through this preliminary round. I think that my teams deserved it, especially after this final. Thanks to all who helped us on this road which is still not over. Our next goal is to play a great World Championship next year.”
Anna Kotikova, MVP and Russia outside-spiker: “It was my first European Championship and I am so happy that we have won the tournament. I have a lot of emotions and cannot describe this great feeling. At the moment I have a huge desire to play more and more tournaments. I am a very confident player and always believe in my strength. That’s one of the most important facts to be a successful player.”
Marijana Boricic, Serbia coach: “I am still proud of my players. Nobody expected that we would reach the final. Russia is the better team and they took it with their physical advantage. Today we didn’t play our game and never found a way into the match.”
#EuroVolleyU19W DREAM TEAM
SETTER: Inna Balyko (RUS)
OPPOSITE: Anna Kotikova (RUS)
OUTSIDE SPIKER: Karolina Fricova (SVK)
OUTSIDE SPIKER: Katarina Lazović (SRB)
MIDDLE BLOCKER: Angelina Lazarenko (RUS)
MIDDLE BLOCKER: Jovana Kocić (SRB)
LIBERO: Giorgia Zannoni (ITA)
MVP: Anna Kotikova (RUS)
Bronze Medal Match | Turkey vs. Belgium 3-0 (26-24, 25-15, 25-20)
Both teams had to accept a defeat in the semi-finals and wanted to crown an almost perfect #EuroVolleyU19W with the bronze medal. Turkey started the better way and scored two aces for a two-point advantage at 9-7. It was the time where the Turkish middle blockers dominated through fast attacks and a solid defence managed to touch numerous Belgium attacks and the score went to 19-14. Belgium coach Fien Callens changed her team on several positions to counter the tactics of her opponent, which worked very well. Belgium proved their fighting spirit when they completed an amazing comeback at 20-20 and that set up a great finale to the set. However, there were a few too easy faults in the reception and a pass error supported Turkey with two set-balls. Captain Burcu Tutku Yüzgenc converted a long and thrilling rally to accomplish the first set win at 26-24.
A particularly strong performance achieved by the Turkish team led them to a massive 12-3 score in the second period. The strong serves, combined with an impressive offensive (50%) and both outside-spikers (nine points) were in a firing mode and they controlled the whole set as again, outside-spiker Yüzgenc made a tremendous diagonal spike to 25-15.
The service of Turkey changed a level game in the last set. First it was outside-spiker Tuğba Senoglu who troubled the Belgium defence, which had a two-point lead at 16-14, with a float service that created one service-winner and some difficult attack situations due to problems in reception for the young Yellow Tigers. Later on, Çağla Erdem, the best Turkish server with seven aces, entered the service-spot and scored two service winners to increase the lead from 20-18 to 22-18. The deficit was too much for Belgium to close in, with their last spike finishing out of bounds to seal the third ever bronze medal for Turkey at the U19 Women European Championship.
Onur Carikci, Turkey coach: “I am very proud that we won the bronze medal. After yesterday’s defeat I told my players that they have to forget the semi-final to refresh for this match. My players did an excellent job. We controlled the first set almost until the end, but I was not afraid that we would lose it after Belgium came back. Of course, we knew that the first set will be very important for the following ones, but the way how we handled the pressure was great. I want to say thank you to all players and my staff, it was a very good European Championship and it feels very good to finish it with a bronze medal.”
Fien Callens, Belgium coach: “We had a lot of difficulties in reception and a lot of unforced errors. At the end we had mre control but it’s a pity our reception didn’t stand. Im happy with the attack we did. We only did six faults and we’ve improved during the tournament. The block defence wasn’t good enough today and it was very difficult for the block against situations which were very fast. I’m very happy because it maybe my last tournament with the team. I’m pregnant so in two months there’s a baby. I will not be there for the World Championship. I worked with some of them for four years so it’s an emotional feeling. It’s great we’re here in the final four. I’m very proud of what we did but also a little bit disappointed that it’s over. You learn so much and we don’t have these opponents in Belgium. Now some of the girls go their own way. I hope to see some of them next year, maybe in the senior team. Now I have to et them go but I hope they find the best way to improve.”
Janne Devos, Belgium outside-spiker: “We will be happy with this result when we leave because Turkey are very strong and we don’t have our strongest team. We are very happy with the top four. Of course we wanted bronze but this is OK. We are not so big and strong like the other teams but we play like a team and try to defend as much as possible. Our serve is also good. Tonight we will celebrate with some Italian food.”
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