Belarus celebrate sensational victory over Italy as race to #EuroVolleyU18W Finals heats up
2017 CEV U18 Volleyball European Championship - Women
Luxembourg, January 14, 2017. Team Belarus caused the real sensation of the day as they powered to a 3-1 victory over Italy in Milano to make it a step closer to qualifying to the Final Round of the 2017 CEV U18 Volleyball European Championship – Women. Elsewhere, Serbia, Poland, Russia and Germany further cemented the leadership in their respective pools – Serbia are actually already qualified to the Final Round even with one round still to go – as fans can look forward to an exciting clash between Turkey and Slovenia to determine the eventual winners of group C. The 8 pool winners plus the 3 second-placed teams with the best score will progress to the Final Round of the championship, which will be taking place in early April in the Dutch city of Arnhem.
Pool A in Riga (LAT)
The second day of competition at Daugava sports hall in Riga provided the home side and fans with something to cheer about as Latvia claimed a 3-2 victory over Montenegro (25-20, 25-17, 21-25, 18-25, 15-9). Latvia set the tone of the game sweeping set one and two but they had to stand Montenegro’s comeback as their opponents won two in a row as well to go for the tie-break. Latvia found back to their best game in the fifth set and deservedly celebrated their first victory in the competition. Marta Kamelija Levinska top scored for the home side with 23 points, as Kristine Teivane added 14; Darta Luse and Irbe Andike Lazda scored 12 and 10, respectively. Milena Burzanovic and Jelena Djurovic paced Montenegro with 20 and 12 points.
Pavels Selivanovs, Latvia coach: “My players were not aggressive enough and they were waiting for their opponents to make a mistake. However, Montenegro played with a lot of determination; it was all or nothing for them. My players have to remember that they do not get any presents in Volleyball.” Team captain Kristine Teivane added: “The match was so long because of our own mistakes. Maybe we were too self-confident and underestimated our opponents.”
Earlier in the afternoon, pre-favourites Serbia claimed their second 3-0 victory in Riga, this time routing Ukraine 25-18, 25-12, 25-8. Miljana Glusac top scored with 13 points, as Milica Milunovic added 12 and Barbara Batinic – Isidora Rodic finished in double digits as well (10). Anna Shumeiko paced Ukraine in their losing effort with eight.
Pool B in Milano (ITA)
Slovakia opened the programme of the second competition day at Centro Pavesi with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over outsiders Israel (25-15, 25-18, 25-12). Slovakia immediately set the tone of the match in the first set (11-5, 16-8), eventually producing a landslide 25-15 win. Israel edged ahead for the first and only time in the second set (13-10), courtesy especially of Ruslana Matviyenko, but after Slovakia levelled the score at 16-all, they changed gear and cruised to a 25-18 win. Everything went just easy for Slovakia in set three (25-12) where Israel ran out of energy.
Michal Matušov, Slovakia coach: “I am satisfied with the result. Today I tried to make many substitutions because in such an important tournament we need to take advantage of every opportunity to provide my best players with a break so that they are in the best shape for tomorrow’s all-deciding match. The qualification to the Final Round is our dream and it’s still possible to achieve it, so we look forward to the match with Italy.”
Guy Shamay, Israel coach: “In my opinion we played worse than yesterday, especially considering the level of the opponent. We made too many mistakes, Slovakia on the other hand played better than in their first match and deserved the victory. Tomorrow is a new day and we hope to finish the tournament with a good performance.”
Belarus caused a sensation by cruising to a 3-1 victory (25-22, 25-23, 14-25, 25-19) over hosts Italy before a sell-out crowd. Belarus claimed an early 4-0 lead and after Italy drew level at 17-all, Yuliya Kisliuk helped Belarus move to 21-17, and even though the hosts closed in at 23-22, the visitors won the set 25-22. The second set was kind of the same with Belarus rushing to a 6-0 lead with the powerful serves of their captain Hanna Kniazeva. Italy closed in at 9-10 and the score remained tight up to 20-20, when Alina Egorowa boosted Belarus on their way to a 25-23 win. Italy responded by cruising to a landslide 25-14 win in set three but ended up trailing 18-10 in the fourth. The Azzurrine attempted a late comeback, but could not complete it as Belarus came out on top at 25-19.
Yuliya Kisliuk, player of Belarus: “Today we were a different team compared to yesterday. We did our best and tried to reduce the number of mistakes. I think that our block and defence were the keys to success but it was also an emotional match where we showed a lot of character and determination. We are really happy.”
Luca Cristofani, Italy coach: “I knew Belarus have a strong team and this was going to be a difficult match. Still, our performance was good and we fought until the end and spiked with all the power we had, but they kept defending and counterattacking. Now it becomes difficult to qualify to the Final Round but I hope that tomorrow we can play a good match with Slovakia.”
Pool C in Nova Gorica (SLO)
Turkey stormed to a 3-0 victory (25-18, 25-21, 25-15) over Sweden in the first match of the day in Nova Gorica. Turkey’s leadership in the match was evident even though the Swedish girls put up a fight, doing so especially in the second set. Sweden showed remarkable team spirit and they had a different way to celebrate each point they scored. There was a moment of fair play as well during this match as a member of Turkey’s medical staff took care of a Swedish player who suffered a minor injury. Filippa Brink, libero of Sweden: “We are very happy with our performance. This is a difficult opponent to play and we are happy with the result. We played well and had a lot of energy, so we are happy with this. We were close to winning one set at least and we enjoy being there and playing against these great teams. It is really fun and you can see we are developing as Volleyball players.”
Selen Durusoy, player of Turkey: “We are happy with being here and with our performance so far. We are ready for tomorrow’s match with Slovenia.”
Hosts Slovenia emulated Turkey as they also claimed their second match in the tournament by three sets to none (25-21, 25-17, 25-20). France claimed a four-point lead in the early stages of the match but Slovenia eventually drew level at 20-all and from there onwards, the hosts controlled the game to rally to a 3-0 win. Ajda Ščuka, player of Slovenia: “I joined the actions full of confidence towards the end of the first set and I think we did a good job. I am really happy with the fact that I was able to help my team win this match.”
Iva Davidovic, player of France: “We thought we would celebrate a victory at the end of this match but today we did not play well. Slovenia, on the other hand, played a very good game. We started really well but I think our reception was not so good and this was our main problem.”
Pool D in Kaunas (LTU)
On Saturday afternoon, Poland stormed to their second consecutive 3-0 victory in as many matches in Pool D after routing Estonia 25-9, 25-10, 25-11. Poland set the tone for what was going to follow cruising to an 8-2 lead in the first set, which paved the way towards a landslide 25-9 victory. Though Estonia put up a fight in the second set, they still could not pose a real threat to Poland as they lacked a real leader; Poland, on the other hand, continued their run and fighting for each ball they easily cruised to compelling 25-10 and 25-11 wins. Poland coach Grzegorz Wagner said: “All of our players performed well; Estonia have just started playing together so they had a tough time against our team. Tomorrow we will finish the tournament playing hosts Lithuania; we played them already in an EEVZA tournament, so we know them quite well and we are very determined to reach the finals of the European Championship.” Estonia coach Riina Ernits said: “We are playing very strong opponents here in Kaunas and we take our lessons from these matches. We know we have to grow taller, jump higher and play faster.”
The Czech Republic easily beat hosts Lithuania 3-0 (25-12, 25-15, 25-9) to make up for their loss to Poland from the day before. The Czechs set the pace from start to end of the opening set as Lithuania made many mistakes, especially in defence. The home side stepped up their efforts in the second set, trailing by just a few points but the Czechs responded with the spikes killed by Gabriela Orvosova to rally to a 25-15 win. Rugile Grudzinskaite tried to help Lithuania fight their way back in the third set but the hosts’ defence was still too weak and shaky to stand a real chance of a comeback. Magdalena Jehlarova and Hana Judlova helped the Czechs with their blocks and spikes as the visitors eventually stormed to a landslide 3-0 victory.
Lithuania coach Saulius Matikonis was obviously not satisfied with his team’s performance and the result: “Our opponents served really strong and we were not able to stabilise our reception. They played at another level – they were taller, faster and stronger. We took our risks, maybe too many. We still need to train more to raise the level of our game and keep the pace of teams such as Poland and the Czech Republic.” Erik Nezhoda, Czech Republic coach: “We were stronger in reception and taller than their players, so this victory does not come as a surprise for us.”
Pool E in Ploiesti (ROU)
Portugal celebrated their first victory in Ploiesti after rallying to a 3-0 (25-13, 25-17, 25-12) dismantle of Azerbaijan after controlling the match from start to end. “We had a much better game than yesterday as we were more focussed, put pressure with our service and this made the difference between the two teams,” said Portugal coach Jose Afonso Neves. “I liked the spirit shown by Azerbaijan; similar to us, we both still have a lot to improve on.”
Vugar Aliyev, coach of Azerbaijan: “We have been working together for three months only and it is difficult to build a strong and competitive team in such short period of time. This is our first competition and we have to work a lot. We are unexperienced and that’s why we lost.”
Pool F in Jászberény (HUN)
Hungary lost also their second match in Pool F – this time surrendering to Spain in four sets (1-3; 11-25, 14-25, 25-19, 20-25). Spain dominated the first and second sets, recording as many as 11 aces and 9 blocks. Hungary delivered a much better performance in the remainder of the match, and yet Spain were able to secure a 3-1 victory. “It was a difficult match because in the third set the Hungarians got a lot better. Thanks to our great teamwork and concentration, we eventually won the match,” said Lucrecia Castellano, who top scored for Spain with 16 points.
In the other match of the group, Germany easily swept Denmark aside in three sets (25-14, 26-24, 25-9). After a comfortable first set for Germany, Denmark rose to the occasion in the second where they even claimed a four-point lead. Germany coach Jens Tietböhl decided to use the best player from the previous day, Camilla Weitzel, though struggling with fever, and his team eventually sealed a hard-fought 26-24 win. After that, everything went just easy for Germany that dominated the third set, winning it at a canter (25-9). “We lost our concentration in the second set, but with a bit of luck we could win it and I am satisfied with our performance in the third set,” Tietböhl said. Kim Buchwald, Denmark coach said: “We were fantastic in the second set, and now this is the most important for me.”
Pool G in Rovinj (CRO)
After their shocking loss to Norway on Friday, hosts Croatia regrouped to cruise to a 3-1 victory over Greece (25-14, 19-25, 25-20, 25-22). The first set was an easy ride for the hosts and Greece had to fight hard to score a few points. However, the visitors started the second set a way better and they ended up dominating it (25-19). The great atmosphere contributed by the home fans and a very few mistakes paved the way towards a 25-20 win for Croatia in set three. The fourth set was very competitive, with Greece fighting through to the end before the hosts came out on top at 25-22.
Croatia coach Marko Crnković said: “We started the match in the best possible way but in the second set we lacked focus. We started playing again at a very high level in set three and even though the fourth set was very close, we eventually made it and beat a very strong Greek team. Hopefully, tomorrow we will finish the tournament with another victory and it will be another great day for us.”
Finland stormed to a 3-0 victory over Norway (25-17, 25-15, 25-18) in the second match of the day in Rovinj. The first set was initially a close race before Finland stepped up their efforts at the net to close it 25-17. After that, Norway seemed not able to find their way back into the match and quickly ended up losing the second set with Finland cruising to a compelling 25-15 win. The third set was quite intense, with both teams playing aggressively and fighting for every point. Finland claimed a small lead, and even though they made a few mistakes, they never let Norway close in, thus securing a well-deserved 3-0 victory.
Pool H in Sofia (BUL)
After surprisingly losing to Austria on Friday, Belgium got back on track as they beat Switzerland 3-1 (25-17, 18-25, 25-19, 25-22). The young ‘Yellow Tigers’ rallied to a 25-17 win in the opening set as Nikita De Paepe scored eight points on her own. The course of the game changed in the second set where Switzerland used some clever float serves to win their first set in the tournament (25-18). The third set was a close affair but Belgium emerged victorious at 25-19 after two aces in a row by Felice Vanassche. Switzerland cruised to a 19-16 lead in the fourth set but Belgium stormed back (25-22) to finish the match in the same way as the set before, i.e. with three aces by Vanassche.
Sara De Donder, team captain of Belgium: “We fought for every single point and did so from start to end. We were in a difficult position after our loss yesterday, but now we are really happy.”
Johannes Nowotny, coach of Switzerland: “We tried our best and served really well but Belgium managed to beat us with their tactical serves.”
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