Rising Volleyball stars from 11 teams book ticket to #EuroVolleyU18W
2017 CEV U18 Volleyball European Championship - Women
Luxembourg, January 15, 2017. The second round of qualifications to this year’s CEV U18 Volleyball European Championship – Women ended on Sunday with a busy schedule and many exciting matches featuring the Volleyball stars of tomorrow. Serbia, Belarus, Turkey, Poland, Russia, Germany and Bulgaria completed a clean sweep of the matches on schedule in their respective pools as Greece stormed to first place in Pool G following the results of the games contested on Sunday in Rovinj, Croatia. Romania, Italy and Slovenia finished as the three second-placed teams with the best score, thus also qualifying to the competition that will be taking place in the Dutch city of Arnhem on April 1-9 and will crown the new European champions of this age group.
Pool A in Riga (LAT)
Though they had secured their progression to the Final Round on Saturday already, Serbia remained focussed and completed a clean sweep of their matches at Daugava sports hall in Riga – this time routing hosts Latvia in three sets (25-15, 25-11, 25-10). Before the match, Latvia still stood a theoretical chance of finishing second in the pool but in order to achieve such feat, the hosts had to beat Serbia in three or four sets. Latvia caught a flying start leading 10-5 in the first set but Serbia responded well and eventually rallied to a comprehensive 3-0 victory. Dejana Lekic top scored with 16 points as Milica Milunovic finished in double digits too (11). Kristine Teivane top scored for Latvia with six.
Pavels Selivanovs, coach of Latvia: “I think that today we did not do anything special other than to just lose this game. I cannot blame my players for the results we achieved in this tournament because the responsibility is entirely mine. We have to move forward and work with all the resources we have here in Latvia.”
Ukraine eventually settled for second place in the pool following their 3-1 victory (26-24, 25-10, 24-26, 25-22) in Sunday’s early match with Montenegro.
Pool B in Milano (ITA)
Belarus completed their spectacular run at Centro Pavesi in Milano with a third straight victory in Pool B, finishing first and qualifying to the Final Round in style after routing Israel 3-0 (25-13, 25-19, 25-16). Israel kept the pace of their opponent in the early stages of the match but soon Belarus changed gear with the help of Yuliya Kisliuk and finished the first set with a comprehensive 25-13 win. The two remaining sets followed the same trend with Israel putting up a fight but Belarus always came out on top, with some of their reserve players enjoying the opportunity to perform. Team captain Hanna Kniazeva said: “We are really happy! This victory is not a surprise since we could feel much energy and positive emotions throughout the entire tournament. I think that the victory we achieved reflects this. We are a very united team and we trust each other, so I think this is key to our success. We will now work hard in order to prepare for the Finals in the best way.” Guy Shamay, Israel coach: “This tournament was very difficult because we competed against much better teams but we will certainly take many positive things from this experience to raise the level of our game. I want to thank the local Organising Committee as they took very good care of us and made our stay in Milano the most pleasant I have ever experienced.”
Italy surged back from their loss to Belarus the day before to rout Slovakia 3-0 (25-18, 25-15, 25-11) before a sell-out crowd. Italy took command of the game in the opening set (16-10) but Slovakia closed in at 14-16 with the help of Simona Jelinkova. However, Italy showed a lot of determination to win the first set 25-18 before rallying to a compelling 12-5 lead in the second propelled by Alice Tanase and Elena Pietrini. Slovakia captain Karolina Fricova tried her best to keep her team on track (9-15) but Italy were not to stop and with their comprehensive 3-0 win they eventually secured their qualification to the Final Round of the championship.
Elena Pietrini commented: “Yesterday’s loss left us very disappointed, but we managed to move on and play this match at our best. We really gave everything we had and we were rewarded for this. I am happy because we have a very good team, we stick together on and off the court and I think that today we all contributed to this victory.” Slovakia coach Michal Matušov: “We played against two of the best teams in Europe here in Milano. I think both Belarus and Italy can take a medal from the Final Round. We still have some problems, especially with our middle blockers who underperformed throughout the tournament. Nevertheless, I am happy with our performance as we did our best and I think we can grow even more in future.”
Pool C in Nova Gorica (SLO)
Turkey beat Slovenia 3-1 (25-13, 25-13, 22-25, 25-11) to complete a clean sweep of their matches in Nova Gorica and secure a ticket to the Final Round. Turkey’s performance in the first and second sets was just stunning but Slovenia needed to take at least one set from this match to stay in contention for a spot in the Final Round. The hosts found the right energy and achieved this goal in the third set. Turkey rose to the occasion again in the fourth and did not allow Slovenia any opportunity to develop their game. Derya Cebecioglu, player of Turkey: “This was a really good game, Slovenia have a strong team but we were stronger and so we can celebrate another victory.” Jože Časar, coach of Slovenia: “After losing two sets I do not know if anyone would still have believed in our comeback. We gave our best in the third set. Turkey played a great match and I do not know how we could take that set but I am of course happy with it. This was our goal and we achieved it.” This is the sixth time a Slovenian national team makes it to the Final Round of a European Championship – across all age groups – after playing a home qualifier in Nova Gorica, something truly remarkable!
France finished their campaign in Nova Gorica with an emphatic 3-0 victory (25-20, 25-8, 28-26) over Sweden to settle for third place in the pool. Sweden, however, set the tempo of the game in the third set where they claimed a five-point lead at 20-15 but France fought back with great serves from Manon Moreels to level the score at 20-all. Sweden had two set points at 24-22 but they made three service mistakes in a row and ended up losing the set 28-26 and with it the match as well. French middle blocker Amandha Marine Sylves said: “It feels good to be the best blocker in this tournament, even more now that we won one match. I am still sad because we haven’t qualified for the Final Round, though I am happy that we finished the tournament with a victory.” Hanna Hellvig, Sweden outside spiker and best scorer of the match with 19 points, commented: “I think we played a good match but when we are put under pressure, we lose energy and start making mistakes. Though we tried it hard, in the end we could not make the difference.”
Pool D in Kaunas (LTU)
Poland completed a clean sweep of their matches in Kaunas where they did not drop a set in three games – and on Sunday, they easily routed hosts Lithuania 3-0 as well (25-9, 25-16, 25-10). The score was close only halfway through the second set (11-9) before Poland broke away by scoring four times in a row. The third set was one-sided and Poland could eventually book their ticket to the Final Round taking place in the Netherlands in early April. Magdalena Stysiak top scored in the match with 11 points. “We got the job done, now we will go back to Poland and start preparing for the Final Round,” Poland assistant coach Ireneusz Waleczek said. “Our players all attend the same sports school and they play in the second division of the national league. I hope that in the Final Round we will be fighting for the medals, but in Europe there are at least seven, eight strong teams.” Lithuania coach Saulius Matikonis said: “Poland have a very strong team and I think they can make it among the top five in the Final Round. I would like to thank all the people who have been working for us all year round.”
Earlier in the afternoon, the Czech Republic beat Estonia 3-0 (25-14, 25-15, 25-16) to finish second in the pool. Estonia came out with all guns blazing in the third set after the Czechs had dominated the first and second ones. However, after trailing 1-6, the Czech Republic fought back and with Gabriela Orvosova and Denisa Pavlikova scoring 12 times apiece, they celebrated a 3-0 victory. “After losing so badly to Poland in the first match, it was difficult to keep the players motivated but I enjoyed how they played against Lithuania and Estonia,” Czech coach Erik Nezhoda said. “We are very disappointed we did not qualify for the Finals. We beat Poland in July but we lost clearly here. It is the first time in 17 years that the Czech Republic does not make it to the Final Round.”
Riina Ernits, coach of Estonia: “We know we can play better, but our level is lower than the other teams. I am happy that some of our players could improve during this tournament.”
Pool E in Ploiesti (ROU)
On Sunday afternoon, Russia cruised to a 3-0 victory over Portugal (25-23, 25-16, 25-10) to secure first place in Pool E and with it book a ticket to the Final Round of the U18 Women’s European Championship. Russia played a very good match, especially in defence and they took another three points from their last matchup in Ploiesti. As for Portugal, they could not pose a real threat to their opponent even though they kept fighting for every point through to the end. Russia coach Alexander Karikov is already looking forward to the next stage of the competition: “I am really happy that we will play in the Finals. It’s going to be a very challenging competition with many strong teams.” Portugal coach Jose Afonso Neves said: “It was a tough tournament for us. We played bad on the first day but after that, we grew throughout the competition. Overall it was a positive experience for my team.”
Later in the afternoon, hosts Romania beat Azerbaijan 3-0 (25-4, 25-12, 25-13) to secure their progression – a truly historic one – to the Final Round as well. Alexia Ioana Carutasu paced the home team with 19 points, as they needed only 56 minutes to rout Azerbaijan after scoring five aces and eight blocks. Istvan Bokor, coach of Romania: “I am proud of my girls. We executed our game plan and we claimed a well-deserved victory. Now we look forward to the Final Round. A dream has come true.”
Pool F in Jászberény (HUN)
On the last day of competition in Jászberény, Hungary were still in contention for first place in the pool, but to achieve this feat they had to beat Germany in three sets. The hosts fought hard, but Germany won the first set (25-21). This had an impact on the spirit of the home team and Hungary lost the second set as well with Germany cruising to a comprehensive 25-15 win. In the third set, Germany were leading by six points at 17-11 when their coach made some substitutions. Hungary enjoyed this opportunity to fight their way back and ultimately won the set (25-20). Even in the fourth set, Hungary edged ahead (7-2) but Germany responded with an outstanding performance to secure a 25-17 win and 3-1 victory and first place in the pool. “What really matters is that we finished first and qualified to the Final Round,” summarised Jens Tietböhl, Germany’s coach.
The Danish national team warmed up with an amazing, unique dance choreography before their matchup against Spain. It did not impress the opponents, because they rallied to a 3-0 victory (25-12, 25-11, 25-13). Though Spain finished second in the pool, they could not make it to the Finals. “I am disappointed, because we will not participate in the European Championship but we improved a lot and I hope we can be there next time,” said Pascual Saurin, the coach of the Spanish team.
Pool G in Rovinj (CRO)
The last match of the tournament held in Rovinj featured Greece and Norway. Greece rallied to a 3-0 victory (25-23, 25-16, 25-16) to secure first place in the pool and progress to the Final Round of the European Championship. Greece caught a promising start to the match, claiming an early lead and even though they had a drop of concentration halfway through, they won the first set 25-23 courtesy of a few great blocks. Greece performed even better in the second set where they left little chances to Norway (25-16). The third set followed the same trend and even though Greece did not play their best, they made very few mistakes and this was enough to propel them to another 25-16 win to seal a 3-0 victory and with it claim first place in the group and a ticket to the Final Round.
Finland caused a little sensation on Sunday as they beat hosts Croatia 3-2 (30-32, 23-25, 25-20, 25-17, 15-11) coming back from two sets down. The match was very intense from the very beginning and after a hard-fought opening set, which lasted for 37 minutes, Croatia stamped a 32-30 win. The second set was just the same with both teams fighting for each point; Croatia caught a better start and they always kept a small lead but lost focus towards the end. Yet, they regrouped and closed it out 25-23. The third set continued that same trend but this time around, Finland scored many points with their spikes, ultimately rallying to a 25-20 win. Croatia came out strong in set four but they again lost focus and Finland comfortably cruised to a 25-17 victory to tie the match. The fifth set was very intense – as much as the ones before – but Finland showed a very well organised game to power to a 15-11 win to complete their comeback. Marko Crnković, Croatia coach: “We started out in the best way but after that, our focus was gone. This is a young and perspective team, and we have to work hard to achieve something big in future.”
Tapio Kangasniemi, Finland coach: “I am happy with our performance since this is the level that we want to show. We do not have very tall players, so we have to make up for this with great attacks.”
Pool H in Sofia (BUL)
Bulgaria completed their campaign on home soil with a perfect record of three wins in as many matches, capping the tournament with a 3-0 victory (25-20, 25-22, 25-23) over Belgium. However, the start of the match was a bit shaky for the hosts, who made many mistakes and trailed 13-17. They eventually started playing better and eventually cruised to a 25-20 win with two aces in a row by Viktoria Angelova. Maria Yordanova did also perform really well in this set, scoring five points. Dobrina Hristoskova recorded three consecutive aces to contribute to an 18-13 lead for Bulgaria in the second set but Belgium responded the same way with the help of Noor Van den Heede, thus rallying to a 22-20 advantage. However, at this stage Bulgaria team captain Aleksandra Milanova took centre stage and propelled her side to a 25-22 win to secure first place in the pool. The hosts continued their show in set three where Milanova spiked repeatedly, finishing the match in emphatic style (25-23).
Strahil Balov, Bulgaria coach: “I am very happy and satisfied with our performance. I have been coaching abroad for many years and now I came back to Bulgaria and achieved something big with these girls by qualifying to the European Championship, after three wins in three matches!”
Aleksandra Milanova, Bulgaria captain: “Before the start of the tournament we expected that Belgium would be our toughest opponent but they surprisingly lost their match with Austria, so today it was tough but we showed what we are capable of. I feel awesome!”
Austria finished their campaign in Pool H on a high note as they routed their neighbours from Switzerland in three sets (25-19, 25-14, 25-13). The first set was a rather close affair but Austria came out on top in the end with Viktoria Goger scoring two aces. Austria continued to put pressure on their opponent and their blocking game was well organised too, this resulting in a compelling 25-14 win in the second set. Austria dominated the third set as well, and their overall solid performance this time produced a landslide 25-13 win.
Johannes Nowotny, coach of Switzerland: “We knew before the match what to expect. We knew their strengths but we did not manage to neutralise them, so this is really disappointing.”
Evelyn Siebert, coach of Austria: “This result is great! Today we played really well in defence and we were well organised. I want to pay credit to Julia Mitter who scored time and again as well as to Noemi Laureen Oiwoh who finished the match with four blocks. I am so happy and proud of our girls, now we can only wait and I hope these results will help us make it to the Final Round of the European Championship.”
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