Luxembourg, April 15, 2017. The Netherlands and Belarus secured on Saturday their qualification to the Final Round of the inaugural CEV U16 Volleyball European Championship – Women after completing a clean sweep of their matches in the second-round qualifiers held in Palencia and Belgrade, respectively. Belgium and Denmark will fight for the top spot in Pool C before a fourth qualifying tournament takes place next week in Greece to complete the line-up for the championship, which will be taking place in late July in Bulgaria. Next to the four pool winners, the best two second-ranked teams from the second round of qualifications will make the trip to Sofia and Bulgaria as well.
Pool A in Belgrade (SRB)
There is not much to say about the Hungary vs Montenegro clash on the final day of the tournament in Belgrade. The Hungarian girls needed to win in order to stay in contention for one of the two top spots in the pool, and they achieved their goal without any problems. Only in the first set Montenegro came close to just two points of deficit at 16-18, but that was it. The final score of 25-18, 25-10 and 25-4 shows that this was an unevenly matched encounter. Szonja Zsofia Stollar of Hungary top scored with 23 points.
“I am very satisfied and I even promised a big cake for my girls if they didn’t allow Montenegro to score a single point in the third set. Regardless of any jokes, the girls did their job very well, we were confident and we knew that we had to win this one. We are waiting to see what will happen in the last match,” said Marta Halasz, head coach of Hungary.
Later in the afternoon, the hosts from Serbia missed so many chances in their matchup with Belarus and in the end had to pay a high price for that. They got off to a dream start leading 2-0 in sets and 19-15 in the third. After that, something inexplicable happened, and they stopped playing. Belarus knew how to get the most of this unexpected gift and first tied the score at 19-19, and then encouraged by this turn of events flew off to 25-22, which meant that Serbia could not finish on top of the pool anymore. However, there was much going on as both teams still had chances to qualify for the Final Round. In the fourth set, Serbia were always slightly in front, but could not capitalise on the advantage in the end. Belarus, once again, were more focused in the decisive moments and won the set 27-25, qualifying at the same time to the European Championship as the winners of Pool A. This also meant that Serbia lost any chance to compete in the inaugural edition of this age-group competition. As a result, the fifth set was a pure formality, and the disappointed Serbian team gave up, thus letting Belarus complete the tournament with three wins in as many matches. Kseniya Liabiodkina of Belarus top scored in the match with 25 points.
“The Serbian team is an excellent one; we tried to compete with them and luckily for us, we emerged victorious in the end. It was very difficult to recover from 0-2 in sets, but my team showed an incredible character and I am thrilled with this achievement,” said Yahor Pimakhin, head coach of Belarus.
Pool C in Holte (DEN)
Belgium showed no mercy for Iceland, when the young Yellow Tigers downed the rising Volleyball stars from the volcanic island in straight sets 3-0 (25-4, 25-11, 25-5). Belgium head coach Yorick Vande Velde: “Our game plan was to serve hard and put high pressure on Iceland and we succeeded in doing that. We kept our pace all the time and kept pushing throughout the entire game. All players got time on the court, and we tried to play with two setters, which gives us some new opportunities for the decisive match against Denmark tomorrow.”
Denmark followed in the footsteps of Belgium and routed Estonia in straight sets too (25-12, 25-12, 25-16). With the result, Denmark and Belgium are through to the Final Round regardless of the results from the last matches coming up on Sunday. Denmark head coach Mats Björkman: “It is absolutely amazing! The girls were ready from the very first service and kept on fighting until the end. They remained focussed all the time regardless of the advantage they had. Our service was amazing today, and a lot of players stepped up and scored points.”
Pool D in Palencia (ESP)
The Netherlands claimed the much-coveted ticket to the #EuroVolleyU16W Finals after earning their third victory in the tournament, and namely after a well-fought three-setter triumph against Latvia (25-16, 25-23, 25-22).
“Winning this match was great. It was hard for us, as I expected, but we managed to remain strong mentally and we were able to keep going. We reached our goal, which was to qualify for the European Championship, so we have to be happy,” said the Dutch head coach Eelco Beijl.
The second place in the pool went to Poland, who defeated Spain 3-0 (26-24, 25-19, 25-16). Despite the loud support from the stands, the hosts could not beat the inspired and efficient Polish side.
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