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22/09/2017 17:00
Belarus make victorious comeback in thrilling tie-break, Italy rally to 3-0 victory over hosts Georgia on opening day in Tbilisi
2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Women

Tbilisi, Georgia, September 22, 2017. Italy recorded a successful opening of the 2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship, defeating hosts Georgia 3-0 (25-14, 25-12, 25-12). Caterina Bosetti, Paola Egonu and Cristina Chirichella were the leading players for the Azzurre. Later in the evening, after a slow start, Belarus responded their own wake-up call to defeat Croatia in a thrilling tie-break 3-2 (10-25, 15-25, 25-21, 25-20, 15-9).

Italy v. Georgia 3-0 (25-14, 25-12, 25-12)

Caterina Bosetti’s serve allowed Italy to take an early two-point lead, maintained after Chirichella’s attack at 5-3. An ace by Valentina Tirozzi made it 7-3 and Chirichella took Italy to the first technical timeout at 8-3 after another attack. Tirozzi proved a difficult server for Georgia, who call a timeout at 10-3 after a spike from Bosetti. Ann Kalandadze made a sixth point for her team as Italy couldn’t keep the ball in play. Bosetti responded with a back row spike and following with an ace, she brought Italy to 16-6 at a second technical break. The Georgian team found it tough to fight back and their own mistakes extended Italy’s lead to 22-8. And yet Mazzanti’s players made a sudden number of errors, thus taking a timeout when Georgia responded with a four-point streak to 22-12. The Italians fought back after the break, eventually closing the set 25-14. 

The offensive power of Raphaela Folie, Valentina Tirozzi and Paola Egonu opened the second set with a 3-0 run for Italy. Chirichella maintained a good serve, giving Italy a 10-3 lead in no time. Coach Paata Ulumbelashvili called a timeout when Italy increased their lead to 12-3. Things did then improve on Georgia’s side as Italy slowly but surely worked their way towards the end of the set with Sara Bonifacio scoring an ace for 24-12. 

A powerful attack by Egonu put Italy 4-1 ahead and the set stopped with an Italian 8-3 lead at the first technical time out. Chirichella’s continuous good serve allowed her team to play calmly in attack. An ace by Ana Kipshidze pushed Georgia to get some motivation despite being 8-17 behind. Ana Batsatsashvili put Italy in trouble with her serve and Bosetti’s long spike gave the home team their 12th point. Egonu hit back from the back row for 23-12. A double block on Julieta Sanadze gave Italy a match point and the game finished at 25-12 with an overkill from Folie. 


Italy coach, Davide Mazzanti: "We didn’t play as high level as we could have, but I am glad as this is was an important match to win. It is always crucial to start the competition well and we did it. It is not easy to be fully concentrated throughout the entire match, so we did make some mistakes at times. We will have to make sure to not make them in the next matches." 

Italy captain, Cristina Chirichella: "We did a great job today in all elements. We were very well prepared mentally, as it is important to keep concentration not only on the first day of competition, but against every opponent."

Georgia coach, Paata Ulumbelashvili: "It wasn’t news for us that the result might end up looking like this. Italy are one of the strongest teams participating in this tournament and they played very well against us. I can’t say that we lack experience, but it is very hard to face strong teams like Italy."

Georgia captain, Tinatin Tchautchidze: "We were not able to defeat Italy today, as they are an incredibly strong team and  multiple medallists from many international competitions. It was a very hard lesson against a very experienced team and we will do our best in the future to achieve our own success." 

Belarus v. Croatia 3-2 (10-25, 15-25, 25-21, 25-20, 15-9)

Croatia opened the match with a 6-3 lead, but a double block on Katarina Barun put Belarus closer to 6-4. Croatia scored two more points, making it 8-4 at the first technical timeout. A block on Anzhelika Barysevich helped maintain Croatia’s lead to 12-7. Ivana Prokopic, Katarina Barun and Samanta Fabris proved to be on point in block again, taking the team to the second technical timeout at 16-8. Their streak continued until 22-8 and Barun sealed the deal in the first set attacking through the block for 25-10. 

Both teams began the second set with a point by point exchange, but Barun took Croatia 7-4 ahead with her serve. One of the longest rallies in the match could have helped Belarus decrease Croatia’s advantage, but Fabris spiked from the back row taking her team to 8-5 at first technical timeout. This was only the beginning of Croatia’s gateway as they increased their advantange to 13-7, forcing Belarus to take a timeout. Fabris and Prokopic blocked Hanna Klimets for 16-8 at the second technical timeout. Volha Palcheuskaya, Nadzeya Smirnova and Hanna Kalinouskaya-Guengoer responded with a triple block on Fabris for 18-12. Kalinouskaya-Guengoer was unable to score from her tip, as the ball came back on her side giving Croatia a 20-12 lead. Klimets extended the fight at 24-15 with a block, but Fabris spiked in the next action, giving Croatia the second set at 25-15. 

Belarus took the first lead in the match, with a 3-2 after an attack by Palcheuskaya. Their effort allowed the team to go 8-4 at the first technical timeout, but their advantage melted to 9-8 after a spike from Fabris and error on Belarus’ side. Fabris remained the strong asset of her team as her spike tied the score at 11-11. An incredible defence of Volha Pauliukouskaya helped Belarus stay 14-13 ahead and Barysevich spiked through the middle to give Belarus a 16-14 lead at a second technical timeout. This time Belarus were able to maintain their advantage, as Kalinouskaya-Guengoer tipped the ball for 21-17. Croatia kept fighting, patiently working to decrease the point difference to 24-21, showing impressive defence skills, but Belarus did not let the set slip out of their hands, winning 25-21 after a spike by Barysevich. 

Croatia bounced back and after a 4-4 tie, they took an 8-5 lead at the first technical time out, when Aksana Kavalchuk spiked into the net. The three-point lead was maintained until 13-10, but an ace by Palcheuskaya gave Belarus new energy to hit back. Ema Strunjak showed her serving skills in return, stopping Belarus from chasing the score and Croatia led 16-12 at the second technical timeout. Their advantage melted soon after when Smirnova spiked for 18-17 and her ace serve put Belarus ahead at 20-19. Croatia called a timeout, when Belarus scored at 21-19, increasing their chances for a tie-break. Kalinouskaya-Guengoer scored with an overkill for 23-19 and an ace by Smirnova gave Belarus a first set point. Lucija Mlinar took Smirnova off the service line, but a long serve from Croatia gave Belarus victory at 25-20, thus extending the match into five sets. 

Both teams stepped onto the court with a strong attitude, keeping the score tight. Barysevich spiked through the middle, keeping the score tied at 6-6 and the switch side came at 8-6 for Belarus when Smirnova scored twice in attack. Croatia called a timeout when Tatsiana Seryk scored from the service line for 9-6. Captain Kavalchuk kept the lead at 11-7 and another time out for Croatia came at 13-8 for Belarus after a double block on Barun. Fabris hit back with an attack right after the break but Tatsiana Markevich gave a first match point to Belarus with a diagonal attack. Barysevich eventually finished the match 15-9 with a spike through the middle. 


Belarus captain, Aksana Kavalchuk: “Croatia were well prepared and ready to play against us. We also came here to have a real battle with them. After the second set as well as in the fourth set when we were 12-16 behind, we had nothing to lose. I think this thought helped us, because we knew all we can do was to just fight until the end.” 

Belarus coach, Piotr Khilko: “We were in a situation, where we had nothing to lose, so I told my players to focus on one action at a time and fight for each ball. This was all we could do and it helped us turn the result into our favour. I asked my team to show a bit more emotions after each rally and they all did listen and carried on until the last ball.” 

Croatia captain, Samanta Fabris: “We played really well in the first two sets, especially in blocking. After that, we stopped working in some elements. Belarus raised their level and fought back. They kept their concentration which helped them win in the end.” 

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