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28/07/2017 22:34
Italy and Russia to battle for gold at inaugural #EuroVolleyU16W
2017 CEV U16 Volleyball European Championship - Women

Sofia, Bulgaria, July 28, 2017. Italy and Russia will contest the first ever final of the #EuroVolleyU16W in Sofia on Saturday, after overcoming Belarus and Bulgaria respectively in two pulsating semi-final ties at Hristo Botev Hall. The two beaten semi-finalists will now rub shoulders in the battle for bronze, whilst the Netherlands have a date with Turkey and Greece will take on Romania in the last of the classification ties, all before the grand final wraps up the tournament’s action.

It will be a fitting finale for the flagship tournament of this age group being exhibited in Bulgaria this year, and if Friday’s action is anything to go by, Volleyball fans will have four more mouth-watering fixtures to enjoy as this European Championship approaches its curtain call. The first two classification ties served up two fascinating encounters on Friday, however, before the main event of the semi-finals left everyone reeling in anticipation ahead of the final day after two matches wrought with quality.


Italy vs. Belarus 3-0 (25-13, 25-6, 25-12)

Italy became the first ever team to reach the final of the #EuroVolleyU16W, after comfortably overcoming Belarus 3-0 in the opening semi-final tie in Sofia. Pasquale D’Aniello’s side have been amongst the most impressive sides on show in Bulgaria, but they still managed to save their best performance so far for the big occasion, Claudia Consoli weaving her magic to notch 13 points, closely followed by the consistent Emma Cagnin who scored ten of her own. In truth, the Italians never looked like giving anything away against a Belarus side that had already ruffled several feathers during the pool phase in Samokov, and almost entirely neutralised the threat of the tournament’s second-leading scorer going into the match, Belarus captain Kseniya Liabiodkina. A convincing display against a dangerous opponent gave D’Aniello every reason to be ecstatic with his side avoiding a potential banana skin and keeping ice-cool composure to stride into Saturday’s final, with one more hurdle lying between the Azzurrine and the grand prize.

“Right now, I feel only happiness,” a beaming D’Aniello said after the match. “It has been a long road from two years ago up to now, and I am thrilled that the team looks so well organised, strong, and is making hardly any mistakes. We executed our game plan and played a wonderful match. Now we are certain of a medal, but we have to put in one more big performance to make sure we get the medal we want! But we can take plenty of good things from today into that game. Our concentration was excellent, and we were good in all areas. Our blocking and serving-blocking were near perfect and I think this is why we won so easily. Our philosophy is to play our brand of Volleyball. We must not get caught in the psychology of other teams, if we go out with the purpose of playing the Italian way, then the result will take care of itself.”

Emma Cagnin, Italy’s leading scorer in the competition, echoed her coach’s words in terms of how the Italians executed their game well, and she was clearly brimming with confidence and excitement ahead of the final.
“It’s a really good feeling,” she said. “We are so happy and satisfied with this win, but now we have to shift focus to the match tomorrow. I think our service today was really good, along with our block. It was good to get that right to help us win this game, because this was the win that so far mattered the most to us. We want to win this championship and now we have only one last game to win. I agree with our coach that this was probably our best performance so far. Belarus are a really good team and winning the game the way we did shows that we still have more to give at this tournament.”

Russia vs. Bulgaria 3-2 (17-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-21, 15-11)

The second semi-final was the last game to be played on Friday, and as a sporting spectacle it was not only the game of the day but a contender for the game of the tournament. Host-nation Bulgaria and visitors Russia battling tooth and nail for a place in the final. A clash between two of the championship’s most influential players, Aleksandra Georgieva of Bulgaria, and Russia’s Tatiana Kadochkina.

The two finished as the leading scorers for their sides, Georgieva with the match-high total of 24 points, Kadochkina with 22, and they led the line for their teams in a tempestuous affair before a crowd of more than 1,000 supporters that packed into the Hristo Botev Hall to roar on their teams. A crescendo of noise greeted the Bulgarians as they clinched the first and third of five hotly contested sets, and stony silence lingered every time the visitors took one of their own. However, having managed to wrestle back parity in the fourth set, Russia, experienced in the tiebreak scenario from Samokov and masters of the fifth set psychology, broke Bulgarian resolve. The hosts slipped into a string of errors and the ruthless Russians took advantage. They clinched the game in the tiebreak at 15-11, sparking wild celebrations on the away bench and sending the crestfallen Bulgarians to their knees. It was a contrast of agony and ecstasy befitting of any great piece of sporting theatre, but proud Bulgarian coach Stojan Gunchev still held his head high after the match, knowing his players must pick themselves up one more time if they are to do themselves justice and take the bronze medal against fellow beaten semi-finalists Belarus on Saturday.

“My players gave everything tonight,” he said. “It was a wonderful game to watch, but we did punish ourselves by getting caught up in the psychology of the occasion and made some mistakes, especially in the tiebreak when we lost our way a little near the end. They hit us with four aces that we should have prevented, maybe minus that we could have won it. However, the tiebreak is a lottery; it was always going to be a game decided by chance. I would like to thank the fans though; they helped our team a lot. I think they could still have a role to play tomorrow if they turn out again for us. But the important thing will be how the girls bounce back. They are devastated after this defeat, and if we can pick them up, and dust them down, I think we will be okay. It’s all about them now and how they react to this.”

Meanwhile, former Russian player and team advisor Ekaterina Gamova, was ecstatic not only to be in the final, but at how her team conducted themselves and set about playing their game in a hostile and intimidating atmosphere, where lesser teams may have crumbled under the pressure.
“It was a great match tonight, but there were some questionable calls by the referee for both teams. However, tonight, was more about how we played. There was a big crowd here and they made an incredible atmosphere in support of Bulgaria. Having played our group games in Samokov where there were not such big crowds, this was the first time we had to play in front of a following like this. It put us under a lot of pressure, and it was tough for us but we managed to settle our nerves, find a way to dig ourselves out of tough spells in the game, and most importantly, we got the result we wanted. The way we showed the fight to earn this victory gives us confidence for the final. We will prepare now for one more very difficult match against Italy. They played before us and won in less sets, so they will be fresher than us and have had more rest. We are the underdogs more for this reason, in that we have less time to prepare. It is important for us now to forget this victory and save our emotion and effort for tomorrow’s final, and make sure we are ready both physically and mentally. It will be a good game, that’s for sure.”

Classification ties

Netherlands vs. Romania 3-1 (25-14, 25-12, 24-26, 25-19)

Eelco Beijl’s Netherlands took one step toward ending their #EuroVolleyU16W campaign on a high in Sofia, after overcoming a stubborn Romania 3-1 in the opening classification match to guarantee a fifth or sixth place finish. They now progress to Saturday’s fifth/sixth place classification tie where they will face Turkey. Jette Kuipers, Anneclaire ter Brugge, and Anna Zijl were the trio that did the damage for the Oranje on the day, scoring 41 points between them. They spiked and smashed their side’s way into a comfortable two-set lead before the Romanians decided to make a game of it, inspired by their influential captain Alexia Ioana Carutasu, who was one of the stars of their Pool II campaign in Samokov. Despite losing a nail-biting third set to offer the Romanians a route back into the game, the Dutch were not to be denied, and subsequently battled to take the fourth set and take a morale-boosting closing victory.

“I’m happy with the result,” Netherlands coach Eelco Beijl said after the match. “The first two sets we looked unplayable, and then we seemed to let them back into it with our own mistakes. But we fought hard to get the win and we’ll look forward to fighting for fifth against Turkey or Greece.”

Greece vs. Turkey 0-3 (12-25, 18-25, 16-25)

The line-up for the fifth/sixth and seventh/eighth place classification matches was finalised with Turkey’s comfortable win over Greece. It took just 71 minutes for the Turks to settle the tie, Sude Hacimustafaoğlu was once again Turkey’s leading markswoman, notching ten points to propel her team toward a showdown with the Netherlands. It was an efficient performance despite Turkey not being required to play at the level they have shown at times in Samokov, their Greek opponents looking off-colour in comparison to some of the displays they have shown so far. They still have a classification tie with Romania to fire themselves up for, whilst delighted Turkey coach Bülent Gunes is already relishing Saturday’s clash with the Dutch.

“The Netherlands are a disciplined and good team. We will take all the lessons we have learned here so far into this game. For us now this game is our final, and we have to go into the game to give our best and we want to win it. Today, I think we served very well and we executed our blocking excellently. There are plenty of positives to take from this victory, and it will give us confidence for tomorrow.”

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News nr. 2 of 22
29/07/2017 22:18:00
Italy crowned champions of inaugural #EuroVolleyU16W with defeat of Russia
27/07/2017 11:15:00
Strength in depth the key for D’Aniello’s Italy

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