Norway, Austria cause sensations of the day in #EuroVolleyU18W qualifiers
2017 CEV U18 Volleyball European Championship - Women
Luxembourg, January 13, 2017. Volleyball strongholds left a mark on the second day of action as the qualification tournaments leading to the Final Round of the 2017 CEV U18 Volleyball European Championship – Women are in full swing across as many as eight different venues. However, Norway caused a sensation as they rallied to a hard-fought 3-2 victory over hosts Croatia in Rovinj to contribute to the major surprise of the day. A second ‘sensation’ materialised in Sofia where Austria cruised to a 3-1 victory over Belgium. The eventual winners of the eight second-round qualifiers plus the three second-placed teams with the best score will eventually join hosts the Netherlands for the Final Round of the championship that will take place in early April in the city of Arnhem.
Pool A in Riga (LAT)
Serbia opened the programme of the tournament held at Daugava sports hall in Riga with a 3-0 victory (25-10, 25-23, 25-23) over their neighbours from Montenegro. Milica Milunovic top scored for Serbia with 17 points as Isidora Rodic and Miljana Glusac added 13 and 11 respectively to the count of the winners.
Later in the evening, Ukraine rallied to a dramatic 3-2 victory over hosts Latvia (17-25, 25-12, 23-25, 25-19, 15-11). Latvia came out strong and the serves made by Marta Kamelija Levinska were key to their success in the first set. However, Ukraine fought back twice from one set down and eventually caused a disappointment to the Latvian fans in attendance at Daugava sports hall as the home team ended up losing at the tie-break. Viktoriia Danchak scored 19 points for the winners as Yuliia Hodnieva and Anna Shumeiko added 18 and 12, respectively. Levinska top scored for Latvia with 16 as Irbe Andike Lazda scored 14 times.
Latvia coach Pavels Selivanovs said: “Ukraine was not that much stronger than us, so this loss is our fault. Our friendly matches before this tournament went extremely well, maybe they were even too good. However, when playing before the fans these young girls feel the pressure and it was the first time that they performed before such a crowd. It’s sad that we started this tournament with a loss but we will be trying to do our best to make amends for it in the next couple of days.”
Pool B in Milano (ITA)
Italy and Belarus started their campaign in Milano on a high note. Belarus claimed a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Slovakia (20-25, 21-25, 25-16, 25-9, 15-8) after coming back from two sets down. Slovakia set the pace in the early stages of the match with Simona Jelinkova’s six straight aces reflecting this trend. The third set was a close affair up to 17-15; after this, Belarus cruised to a 24-15 lead and this is where the course of the match changed. Belarus thrashed Slovakia in the fourth set (25-9) and rallied to a 10-5 lead in the fifth one, where four mistakes in a row made by Slovakia paved the way with gold for the team from Minsk. Yuliya Kisliuk, player of Belarus: “We are very happy with this victory, especially after such a bad start. We did not expect such a tough match but we knew that the opponent was a strong one.” Michal Matušov, coach of Slovakia: “Our attack and serve were very good for two sets but it’s difficult to maintain that same level against a team like Belarus which keeps hitting hard from the start to the end of the match.”
Hosts Italy thrashed Israel in the other match of the day (25-10, 25-11, 25-12). An inspired Valeria Battista contributed to a 12-4 lead in the first set and three consecutive serves by Alice Tanase closed the period at 25-10. The score remained close up to 9-7 in the second set with Israel trying their best to keep the pace of the home team; however, Elena Pietrini stood behind the service line for a while as Italy moved the score from 15-10 to 23-10 en route to a 25-11 win. Marina Lubian and Tanase contributed to a 5-0 run for Italy in the third set and even though Israel tried to fight back with the help of Maya Dudockin, Tanase and Battista easily closed the match for the Azzurrine. Luca Cristofani, Italy coach said: “We knew that today’s match was the easiest one this weekend but it was not obvious we would play so well, especially because young players often lose focus during the match. Now we will prepare for the next matches.”
Pool C in Nova Gorica (SLO)
Turkey opened the programme of the tournament in Nova Gorica with a 3-0 victory (25-22, 25-22, 25-16) over France. The match started with lots of mistakes on both sides of the net, however France piled up a six-point advantage at 20-14 and it looked like they were going to win the first set easily. Still Turkey came back strong and emerged victorious at 25-22. The second set was a close affair and Turkey came out on top again even though France put a lot of pressure with their service. Turkey controlled the match from start to end in set three, thus cruising to a 3-0 victory. Onu Carikci, Turkey coach said: “The first match of any tournament is always tough. After taking the first set, we got a boost of confidence and started to play very good. We have to continue the same way and win three matches in a row because we want to go to the European Championship.” His French counterpart Fabrice Vial said: “We played two good sets but unfortunately, in the third one we made many mistakes. This was a good match from my team because we know that Turkey are very good and it is difficult to keep their pace and stay at that same level for the entire match.”
Hosts Slovenia easily thrashed Sweden in the second match of the day (3-0; 25-7, 25-13, 25-17). Slovenia played very aggressive and controlled the match from start to end, with the result never under discussion. “I think we did a good job for the first match of the tournament as the girls played very well. As for the remaining matches, we will have to raise our level in order to compete with France and Turkey, who showed an excellent game earlier today,” said Slovenia coach Jože Časar. Slovenia opposite Nika Bavdaž, who plays for the home club in Nova Gorica, said: “I am happy with this victory. We played according to our game plan and followed the instructions of our coach. The result speaks for itself.” Sweden coach Robert Söderberg commented: “It was a tough game and we did not perform at our best level. Slovenia were extremely solid, served strong and their passing was good too. They were just too strong for us today. We need to be able to count on the whole team; two girls were sick today but I hope they can play tomorrow.”
Pool D in Kaunas (LTU)
Poland opened the programme of the tournament in Kaunas with a 3-0 victory (25-23, 25-19, 27-25) over their neighbours from the Czech Republic. The Czechs caught a promising start to the match leading 19-13 in the first set before Poland improved their defence, scored a few points in a row and rallied to a 25-23 win. The two teams exchanged the lead a few times in the second set but towards the end Poland showed their strength to stamp a 25-19 win. The Czechs had one set point in the following period, but Poland cancelled it and ultimately won the match in three sets. Julia Szczurowska top scored for Poland with 16 points as Denisa Pavlikova scored 14 times for the Czechs. “The first match in such a challenging tournament was a difficult one for both teams; however, we did better in attack and put pressure on the opponents. We are very happy with this victory,” said Poland assistant coach Ireneusz Waleczek. Erik Nezhoda, Czech Republic coach: “This was a very important match for us and I think that Poland’s defence was better. I do not know what happened in the first set; we played really bad towards the end whereas Poland successfully closed all of their attacks.”
Hosts Lithuania followed suit as they claimed a 3-1 victory (25-16, 24-26, 25-13, 25-20) from the Baltic derby with Estonia. The home team set the pace from start to end of the opening set but lost focus in the following one where Estonia won the most important points. However, Lithuania dominated the third set before claiming a 19-11 lead in set four, courtesy of five straight points. Estonia closed in at 19-23 before Lithuania emerged victorious at 25-20 to provide their fans with something to cheer about. Greta Pulkauninkaite scored 16 points for the home team as Jade Šadeiko paced Estonia with 16 as well. “Lithuania were stronger and the final result reflects this,” said Estonia coach Riina Ernits. “Their players have been working together all year round whereas we did not,” she added. Saulius Matikonis, Lithuania coach: “I am happy that the girls rose to the occasion, as they were really excited ahead of this match. I believe that this victory will help us for the next matches against teams as strong as Poland and the Czech Republic.”
Pool E in Ploiesti (ROU)
After Thursday’s dramatic tie-break victory over hosts Romania, Russia left no chance at all to their rivals from Azerbaijan cruising to a 3-0 (25-6, 25-5, 25-7) victory, which further cements their leadership in Pool E. Russia controlled the match from start to end, as they served and blocked extremely well, making very few mistakes to close their second match in the tournament after 54 minutes of play.
Romania celebrated their first win on home soil in Ploiesti as later in the afternoon they rallied to a 3-0 (25-16, 25-15, 25-13) dismantle of Portugal. The hosts did not disappoint their fans and after losing to Russia on Thursday, their head coach Istvan Bokor made sure his players were mentally and physically ready to take on Portugal. Romania started out very determined and won the opening set by 25-16. The story of the second set was not any different with Romania being the dominant force both technically and tactically. The third one was just a matter of routine as Romania comfortably finished it off at 25-13 to close the match with a 3-0 victory. Adelina Budai-Ungureanu top scored with 16 points as Romanian rising star Alexia Ioana Carutasu added 12 to the count of the home team.
Romania coach Istvan Bokor said: “After yesterday’s cold shower we remained focussed on every rally. We have one more match to play and we are taking things step by step.” Carolina Rodrigues, player of Portugal: “We were a bit nervous but we tried to cope with the pressure and I think we are improving with each day.”
Pool F in Jászberény (HUN)
It does not happen often for a libero joining the game from the bench to become the ‘man of the match’. However, that was the case in Friday’s match starring hosts Hungary and Denmark. The weather was not very kind to the qualifying tournament taking place in Jászberény. Although it was snowing all day, more than 300 fans supported the Hungarian women’s team in their match against Denmark. The game started better for the Danish girls and Hungary had to deal with the injury of their libero Stefania Schwegler. However, her substitute Dorka Pap played well and turned out to be the ‘man of the match’ in the end as the Hungarian team secured a comfortable 3-0 victory (25-10, 25-23, 25-15). Head coach Szabolcs Csizmadia was satisfied after the match and said that they managed to get a step closer to fulfilling their dream of qualifying to the Final Round of the U18 European Championship.
In the other match of the day, Spain struggled to score at least ten points in the opening set of their clash with an extremely self-confident German team. The second set was more challenging for Germany as their opponents fought harder but they eventually came out on top at 25-23. At the beginning of the third set, the Spanish team was still trying to keep the pace but after a short technical break, the German superiority was restored. Germany coach Jens Tietböhl said: “We won because we had played as a real team, together.”
Pool G in Rovinj (CRO)
Norway caused a little sensation on Friday in Rovinj as they beat hosts Croatia 3-2 (16-25, 25-20, 15-25, 27-25, 15-13) in the opening match of Pool G. The match lasted for more than two hours and everything looked just fine for the hosts as they won the first set 25-16. However, Norway regrouped, made very few mistakes in the second set and cruised to a 25-20 win. Croatia displayed great attacks and blocks to impose their rule in the third one before Norway emerged victorious from a dramatic fourth set. The fifth set was a close affair from start to end but Norway eventually came out on top with a little luck on their side (15-13).
Marko Crnkovic, coach of Croatia: “My players have been working really hard and we did not expect this result. The turning point for us was the fourth set. We have to try and play our best until the end of the tournament.”
Bonolo Ramphomane-Aandahl, coach of Norway: “We are thrilled with the result and with our victory. It was an extremely important match for us and since the hosts had chosen us like their first opponent in the tournament, we felt like being the underdogs, so I told the girls we should use this to our advantage because we had nothing to lose.”
Greece claimed the second match on schedule in Rovinj as they swept Finland aside in three sets (25-19, 25-22, 25-11). Both teams started the match aggressively as they looked extremely determined to win, but Greece showed better reception and blocking to secure a 25-19 win. The second set was very close with the two teams fighting bravely for every point. However, towards the end of the set Greece claimed a small advantage of a few points and eventually held onto it (25-22) to double their lead in the match. Their show continued in the third set, which they won at a canter (25-11) to seal a well-deserved 3-0 victory.
Pool H in Sofia (BUL)
After beating Austria on Thursday night, hosts Bulgaria cruised on Friday to their second straight victory in Pool H, this time routing Switzerland 3-0 (25-14, 25-14, 25-17). Bulgaria set the tone for what was going to follow already in the opening set, which they took by 25-14 with as many as seven points contributed by Maria Yordanova. Team captain Aleksandra Milanova, the other star player on the team, stood out in the second set where her spikes and three aces in a row made it 25-14 for Bulgaria again. Bulgaria remained focussed also in the third set and by sweeping Switzerland aside the young ‘Lionesses’ further cemented their leadership in the pool. “Today we were really motivated and I think we took our lessons from yesterday, so I am very happy with our performance,” Bulgaria coach Strahil Balov said. “This was some kind of a rehearsal for our last match in the pool against Belgium. I think that if we play like we did today, we will win the last game too and finish the pool in first place.” Chiara Petitat, team captain of Switzerland: “The reception was our biggest problem today. We must work hard in this aspect of the game. I hope we can improve this for our next match with Belgium tomorrow.”
Later in the evening Austria rallied to a quite surprising 3-1 victory over Belgium (25-21, 22-25, 25-17, 25-21). Belgium claimed a seven-point lead in the first set at 18-11 but Austria came back strong to cruise to a 25-21 win with the help of Nadia Brindlinger and Maria Alexandra Epure. Belgium stormed back to a 25-22 win in the second set but the course of the game changed again in the third where Austria powered to a comfortable 25-17 win as Noemi Laureen Oiwoh was their star player and killed spike after spike. Austria’s show continued in the fourth set where five aces paved their way towards a 25-21 win and 3-1 victory in the match. Robin De Bont, Belgium coach said: “I think Austria deserved to win. We knew that they are a tough team, they play very good block-defence and if you want to beat them, you cannot afford making too many unforced errors. It was difficult for us to score and that is why we lost.” Austria coach Evelyn Siebert: “This is a truly emotional moment because I did not expect to beat such a great Volleyball nation like Belgium. I think that today we showed that we are able to play at the same level of any opponent. Some people may think we are the underdogs and a small team, but today my girls showed their value and we are of course extremely happy with the result.”
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