Russia and the Netherlands battle it out for Olympic berth in Moscow
CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup
Moscow, Russia, June 23, 2012. The Netherlands and the home heroines of Russia are ready for a terrific showdown on Sunday in Moscow as an Olympic berth will be at stake in the final of the CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup – Women in Russia’s capital city.
A very large audience was in attendance on Saturday at the venue set up in the splendid scenario of “Victory Park” with all matches being played on the centre court. The Russian fans did certainly not regret their decision to find their way to “Poklonnaya Gora” as the local heroines edged their rivals from Switzerland in the semis to keep their Olympic dream well alive.
The first semifinal was quite one-sided as the Netherlands needed only three matches to cruise past their opponents from Italy. Madeleine Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel and last year’s U23 European champions Michelle Stiekema/Riemke Braakman conceded only one set out of three games to Italy’s Daniela Gioria/Giulia Momoli and Laura Giombini/Viktoria Orsi Toth. After claiming their ticket to the final, the “Oranjes” followed from the stands the deciding matches of the other clash opposing Russia to Switzerland. “We are pleased that we have achieved our minimum goal which was to finish among the top three. With this result we have guaranteed our participation in the World Olympic Qualification Tournament that will take place here next week but still we will try to secure our Olympic berth already tomorrow” said the Dutch girls.
The second semifinal was, on the other side, much contested with a golden set necessary to determine the country advancing to the final. Switzerland’s Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Vergé-Dépré had opened the series by edging Anastasia Vasina and Anna Vozakova in three sets, but the home side leveled the count after Evgenia Ukolova/Ekaterina Khomyakova stormed back to claim the tie-break of their match versus Muriel Graessli and Tanja Goricanec.
Russia trailed again as Forrer/Vergé-Dépré downed Ukolova/Khomyakova in straight sets (24-22, 21-12), so Vasina/Vozakova had the responsibility to keep their Olympic dream alive by securing a win in their match against Graessli/Goricanec. They did so by cruising to the 15-10 that sealed the final 2-1 and called for the golden set while the Russian fans were standing on their feet on the stands.
Russia’s head coach Marco Solustri decided to opt for Vasina/Vozakova while Switzerland pretty evidently lined-up Forrer/Vergé-Dépré for that additional, deciding set. The home heroines set the pace for most of the time but their opponents were regularly able to claw back before Anastasia and Anna could cash their first match ball for the final 15-13 that fired up the Russian party there in Moscow.
The final with the Netherlands will be a remake from last year’s deciding act of the Zonal Phase tournament in Kazan where the “Oranjes” prevailed and caused a major disappointment to the Russian Beach Volleyball family. Will Moscow turn into the venue of a much desired revenge?
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