Volleyball powerhouses off to convincing start to their #EuroVolleyU19M campaign
2017 CEV U19 Volleyball European Championship - Men
Luxembourg, January 13, 2017. The second stage of the qualification process leading to this year’s CEV U19 Volleyball European Championship – Men is up and running with eight tournaments taking place across as many venues. The second day of action – actually the first one for most of the pools – did not provide any major sensations even though five-time U19 European champions Russia had to fight for five sets in their matchup with Spain. All pre-favourites easily claimed their respective matches as they fight for one of the 10 tickets at stake to travel to Hungary and Slovakia in late April and the right to vie for the much-coveted European crown in this age group.
Pool A in Spala (POL)
CEV U19 ranking leaders Poland needed only three sets to secure their first win in the second round qualifier played in Spała. Although the White-and-Reds’ position was earned by their older colleagues, the present U19 team of Poland has, so far, worked well to maintain it. The Swedish players showed their spirit and ambition, but Poland’s steady and consistent play gave the hosts control over the game throughout the match. Coach Maciej Zendeł’s players presented themselves as the more experienced and mature side, made good use of the advantage of their own court and ended the match 3-0 (25-19, 25-18, 25-17).
In the first match of the day, Latvia caused a little surprise, turning the tide after losing the first two sets to the tall Czech players. The Czech Republic dominated set no. 2 and seemed to have completely lost their concentration in set three. Their opponents showed enough patience and skill to arrive at a close-cut tie-breaker and tip the scales in their favour 3-2 (22-25, 16-25, 25-18, 25-18, 17-15).
Pool B in Argos (GRE)
Plucky Spain took Russia by surprise in the opening match of Pool B at the Greek city of Argos, but the five-time U19 European champions survived the scare for a 3-2 (23-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-22, 15-13) win. Led by Mark Khmelinskiy’s 23 points, Russia out-blocked Spain 18 to 11 to counter their rather shaky receiving which conceded eight aces (to their own two). Still, Russia coach Andrey Nozdrin was optimistic looking ahead. “Opening matches are always difficult. We looked nervous and we made many errors, but it is the result that counts. I believe we will play better tomorrow,” he said.
Israel managed to stun hosts Greece with a 3-1 (26-28, 25-19, 25-22, 25-23) win that allows them to take an early lead in the pool standings and keep on dreaming of a ticket to the final phase. “We knew it would be a difficult game,” said Israel coach Ido Cohen. “But we have set ourselves a goal of qualifying to the final phase.” Daniel Galili with 20 points and Ido David with 17 led Israel, who frustrated the Greek reception with their serving and put up some exceptional digging to dash the hosts’ hopes of making an impact in this pool.
Pool C in Balikesir (TUR)
Serbia stormed to a 3-0 victory over the Netherlands (29-27, 25-18, 25-23) to open proceedings in Pool C. It was a close match in its early stages and even though the young Dutchmen set the pace for most of the time, Serbia eventually won the opening set 29-27. The Oranjes claimed a narrow lead at the first technical time-out of the second set but again Serbia came out on top in the end. Though the Netherlands showed solid defence to set the pace of the game in set three, at some point they started making many mistakes and lost many points, with Serbia rallying to a 3-0 victory and Stefan Skakic top scoring with 15 points.
Arnold van Ree, head coach of the Netherlands said: “We started really good and I think we deserved to win the first set, which was a very competitive one. We did not show the same level in the second and third sets. Our next match will be with Turkey and we know they have a strong team. We will prepare accordingly.”
Noah van Dam, captain of the Netherlands: “All sets were close but we made some easy mistakes and played really bad in the third set. We fought but we could not quite succeed in the end. Unfortunately, we lost the match. We know the strengths and weaknesses of Turkey and I hope we can win the next match.”
Nikola Meljanac, captain of Serbia: “The beginning of the match was tough for us but we managed to play better and better. We continued to improve and after the first set, both our attacks and defence were very good. We kept scoring and in the end won 3-0.”
Bosko Macuzic, head coach of Serbia: “It was a very important match for us, being the first one in the tournament. We had some luck in the first set where we came back from 20-24 to win it in the end. Every single point is important to us.”
In the other match of the day, Turkey easily beat Montenegro 3-0 (25-10, 25-14, 25-13). It was a ‘solo performance’ by the home team, which literally thrashed the opponents in each set. Adis Lagumdzija was just outstanding from the service line as Ali Deniz Yilmaz top scored for Turkey with 12 points. Stefan Radevic, team captain of Montenegro: “We could not prepare for this match, as we had problems during our journey to Turkey, so this was definitely not our level and I hope we can do better in the next matches.” His coach Zoran Vukcevic added: “This is not the level of my team; we were tired since our journey lasted for 26 hours, so we did not sleep and feel tired. Tomorrow we play Serbia; they have a strong team but I am confident that we can do better than we did today.” Turkey coach Ali Ümit Hizal: “We knew something about Montenegro from the Balkan Championship, so we had a little advantage in this regard. I am happy with my players’ performance. Tomorrow we will play the Netherlands. They have a good and disciplined team and I am sure it will be an interesting match. I hope we will beat them.”
Pool D in St-Jean d’Illac (FRA)
Estonia started their campaign at Complexe Pierre Favre in Saint Jean d’Illac with a straight-sets victory over Slovenia (25-22, 25-23, 25-22). The two teams studied each other for a while in the opening set, before Estonia claimed a lead that they kept on extending. In the second and third sets, Slovenia fought bravely to draw level but best scorer Siim Melles (13 points) and his teammates eventually cruised to a well-deserved straight-sets victory. Urmas Tali, Estonia coach commented: “I am happy with this victory but not satisfied with the way we achieved it. It was a difficult first match. Slovenia could have won, since each set was very close. I hope we will raise our level tomorrow against France. We made too many mistakes today.”
France celebrated a perfect start to their home qualifier as they beat Switzerland in straight sets (25-22, 25-18, 25-17) before a crowd of 1,050 fans. France claimed each time an early lead they were able to hold on to, thus cruising to a speedy 3-0 victory. Rémi Bassereau who last week in Bulgaria helped France make it to the second round of the U21 World Championship qualifications finished the match as the most prolific player with 12 points. France coach Slimane Belmadi was happy and relieved “not to have spent too much time on the court as my players were all sick last week. This 3-0 is a very good start and it is always a pleasure to play at home.”
Pool E in Ploiesti (ROU)
Belgium regrouped following their setback to Romania the day before and thrashed Iceland 3-0 (25-15, 25-14, 25-15). The young ‘Red Dragons’ easily claimed the first set and they continued to do the same also in the second where they showed solid defence and put pressure on their opponents from the service line. Belgium controlled the third set from start to end as well (25-15) and with this victory remain in contention for a ticket to Hungary and Slovakia where the Final Round of the 2017 U19 Men’s European Championship will take place in late April.
Pool F in Friedrichshafen (GER)
The first competition day in Friedrichshafen brought out two one-sided matches, with the national teams of Germany and Italy claiming their maiden victories in the competition. The hosts celebrated a landslide 3-0 (25-9, 25-22, 25-15) victory over Croatia, as Italy stormed to a comprehensive 3-0 win (25-22, 25-17, 25-10) in their matchup with Ukraine.
Matus Kalny, Germany coach: “I didn’t expect that this game would be so easy for my players. It is important that we won the game in straight sets, but Croatia was just a must-win for us. Ukraine and Italy play at a much higher level. So we need to keep up the concentration and have to improve our attack.”
Sandro Venier, Croatia assistant coach: “Germany is a very strong team, we knew that before. It is still our goal to go home with a victory on Sunday.”
Mario Barbiero, Italy coach: “The first match of every competition is very difficult for the players. My team played very good Volleyball in the second and third sets. Ukraine served very well in the first set and this posed a challenge to our receivers. Of course, I am satisfied with this start and hope to see even better Volleyball during the next two games.”
Pool G in Sofia (BUL)
After losing to Bulgaria on Thursday, Denmark regrouped to cruise to a comprehensive 3-0 victory (25-10, 25-15, 25-13) over rookies Georgia. August Brandt Jelert was the real ‘man of the match’ for the Danes in the opening set as he scored five aces along the way to a speedy 25-10 win. Georgia did not seem able to find their best game and Denmark ended up winning the second set at a canter as well (25-15). The Danish coach made some changes to his starting six in the third set but this did not have any impact on the quality of their performance as Denmark finished the match off at 25-13.
“Sometimes it looked easy but we had to remained focussed and get the job done,” Denmark coach Thomas Skifter Bertelsen said. “I think my players did so today. Though I respect Georgia, I think we were the better team and proved it. We had to do so in order to stay in contention for a spot in the Final Round of the championship.” “We had to win this match and as a result, we had to remain focussed from start to end, and pressure Georgia with our serve. The next match with Belarus will be like a ‘small final’ for us where second place in the pool will most likely be at stake, and we feel ready for it,” Denmark captain Tobias Hougs Kjær said.
Pool H in Amstetten (AUT)
Austria celebrated a successful start to their home campaign in Amstetten as they beat Norway 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 27-25). On Saturday, there will be an all-Nordic duel between Norway and Finland before hosts Austria take on the Finns on Sunday. This means that the Austrians will have the possibility to analyse the game of their next opponents and prepare for the ‘final showdown’ in the best way.
Austria coach Sebastian Tatra said: “We are very happy, because this victory is really important on the way that takes to the Final Round. My team played really good, and especially the ‘big points’. Our block was very effective and I would like to praise the performance of Christopher Hahn, who has been called up at the last moment to replace a sick teammate; he joined the team on Wednesday only and yet he delivered a top performance today.” Team captain Niklas Etlinger added: “We found the better solutions in the key moments of the match; after all, it was a well-organised team effort. In my opinion the Finns are stronger than Norway, so on Sunday we will have to play as we did today or even better.”
Norway coach Nebojsa Duric: “We tried to deliver a top performance and we actually did so for most of the match, but towards the end of each set we made too many mistakes.”
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