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21/07/2017 22:16
Dream starts for six countries on opening day of inaugural U16 Women’s tournament in Bulgaria
2017 CEV U16 Volleyball European Championship - Women

Sofia/Samokov, Bulgaria, July 27, 2017. The inaugural U16 Women’s Volleyball European Championship in Sofia and Samokov got off to a flying start on Friday, with Denmark, Italy, and the Netherlands all claiming big opening wins in Pool I at the Hristo Botev Hall in Sofia, whilst Romania, Belarus and Russia were victorious in Pool II in their matches at Arena Samokov.

The 21st July 2017 marked a historic day for the CEV European Championship as the U16 Women’s bracket was played out for the very first time, and it did not disappoint as the competing nations served up some scintillating displays across the two venues.

Pool I (Sofia)    

Greece vs. Denmark 1-3 (25-27, 16-25, 25-12, 22-25)

The first winners at the flagship U16 competition were Denmark, who sprung an opening day shock in overcoming Greece over four sets. Sofia Nørager Brisgaard was the star of the show, hitting 21 points to help her side to their surprise victory, despite stern Greek resistance in the third. There were huge celebrations at the end from Mats Olof Björkman’s side, the Danish coach labelling the victory ‘historic’ in a post-match interview.

“We were quite surprised to win. Of course, it’s a great start for us and now the girls believe we can take this forward into the next matches and even progress from the group. Everybody played well, especially our outside hitters. This was a very unexpected but great win, perhaps the greatest win in the history of Danish women’s Volleyball.”

Greek coach Konstantinos Gkountas was gracious in his side’s defeat, but insisted that there is more to come from his team yet. “Congratulations to Denmark, but we didn’t play our best game. We made at least 27 mistakes, but I believe we’ll respond in the next game and play a good match after this.”

Bulgaria vs. Italy 1-3 (17-25, 25-21, 10-25, 12-25)

Mayor of Sofia Yordanka Fandakova was present at Hristo Botev Hall to support the host nation Bulgaria in their match with Italy, but it didn’t stop the Pool I favourites claiming a resounding 3-1 win over the hosts. Claudia Consoli and Linda Nkiruka Nwakalor were the star performers, hitting 15 and 14 points respectively to silence a raucous home crowd, much to the delight of their coach Pasquale D’Aniello.

“We’re happy because we’ve begun this European Championship as we dreamed”, D’Aniello said. “We wanted to do well but never imagined we’d play this kind of match. We won without any major difficulty and we hope this means we’ll do well going forward. I hope the courage that we can take from this game against Bulgaria will allow us to approach future matches without fear.”

Meanwhile, Bulgaria head coach Stojan Gunchev explained that his team must change their mindset if they are to improve and ultimately be successful on home soil in the tournament. “We didn’t really do a great deal well on the court today. Italy played a near perfect match and Sophie Andrea Blasi was particularly excellent, but we didn’t show enough character. We made a lot of unforced errors, and cannot be satisfied. If we change our mindset going into the next match, I am sure we will play much better.”

Finland vs. Netherlands 0-3 (22-25, 19-25, 21-25)

They were forced to dig in for long periods in the opening set, but Eelco Beijl’s Netherlands side rallied to overturn their early deficit and coast toward what eventually proved a comfortable win over Finland in straight sets. Despite the relative ease of the contest on paper, both coaches agreed after the game that the first set and the boost in morale that came with winning it was where the match was won and lost, but Beijl believed his team’s capacity to dig deep in a challenging scenario was the key to victory.

“The perfect start has two sides. The match didn’t start that well, we began with five errors due to miscommunication. There was stress in the team, but they stayed calm and started to play. The tension in the first set turned into a relaxed and positive vibe, and they scored points I never would have expected, and it will give us confidence for the next game. The girls were brave and that’s what made it a 3-0 match.”

Finland coach Heikki Kosonen had considerably less to smile upon after bearing the brunt of losing the tight first set, but is confident his team can improve and challenge to qualify from the pool phase. “We can take the positives from the first set. We must carry the fighting spirit forward that we showed at the beginning and ensure our serving remains consistent. It was devastating to lose that set after being in the lead, and from there a strong Netherlands had the confidence to push on and win. We have to improve in every area, but I’m confident we can get back up there and fight to qualify.”

Pool II (Samokov)

Belgium vs. Romania 1-3 (22-25, 26-24, 14-25, 11-25)

Alexia Ioana Carutasu led Romania to a perfect start of their own, the Romanian captain scored 22 points and helped her team defeat Belgium 3-1 in the first Pool II match in Samokov. Her six spikes in the first set epitomised her and her team’s performance, and despite being pegged back in the second, they rallied in the third and fourth, Mara Dumitrescu shining on court to clinch set point in the third, before pressing home their advantage in the fourth to win. It was an all-round great performance from the side north of the border, but coach Marius Macarie already had his mind on the next match.

“It’s a perfect start to the competition. It was a difficult match because Belgium are a very strong team with good opposite and outside hitters. We prepared well for the match and we managed to play really well in attack. But the Czech Republic are another strong team in our Pool. They play really well defensively but we will prepare ourselves and be ready for a tough match.”

Belgium coach Yorick Vande Velde credited Romania’s performance, but was disappointed in the errors made by his team, which he believes proved costly, an aspect of their game which they must improve ahead of their clash with Turkey.

“Romania had more power than us. Their opposite Alexia Carutasu played really well and scored a lot of points in the first set. In the second set, we made some tactical changes, she had less chances and we won it. In the last two sets, we just couldn’t stop their spikers. We had no block or defence, and we made mistakes; hence we lost today. It is always difficult to play against our next opponents Turkey because of their strength in depth, but we will analyse, make a tactical plan and will do our best. Our team play with a lot of passion and if we manage to stick to our tactical plan we will have a good chance to win.”

Belarus vs. Czech Republic 3-0 (25-23, 25-16, 25-17)

Kseniya Liabiodkina and Darya Borys led the way for Belarus in their first win in Pool II of the EuroVolleyU16W, a thumping 3-0 triumph over the Czech Republic. Borys and Liabiodkina finished as top scorers for the winners with 15 and 19 points respectively. They endured a tough first set against the Czechs who had established an early advantage, but after digging in with some excellent serving and blocking, the Belarusians clinched the first set and never looked back on the way to victory.

“The Czechs had a lot of height in their side and we showed them a little too much respect at first,” Belarus coach Yahor Pimakhin said after the game. “Today we just tried to do our best, and maybe that opening set was the most important. We managed to win it despite the tough start and I am satisfied with my players because they followed all my instructions and we were successful. Now we should think about our next opponent Russia. It will be tough for sure.”

Czech coach Ales Novak was in agreement with his counterpart that losing the first set ultimately cost his side the game. “The deciding moment was in the first set when we led by 23-20 and our key player got injured. From then, we didn’t manage to finish the set and Belarus scored five points in a row to win it by 25-23. It was a tough psychological moment for the team and it was the key moment in the game. Tomorrow we play Romania. Today their girls played really well in offense and managed to win against Belgium. If we want to defeat them, we must show a different kind of Volleyball.”   

Russia vs. Turkey 3-2 (25-10, 23-25, 20-25, 25-13, 15-11)

In the first tiebreak of the tournament, Russia eventually edged out Turkey 3-2 in a pulsating match, which quickly turned into the game of the day, Tatiana Kadochkina holding the aces for Russia with her game high total of 27 points. Russia contributed a remarkable performance in the opening set to win 25-10, the influential Elizaveta Apalikova brilliant from the serve line to help punish a series of Turkish errors. Yet Turkey roared back in the second and third sets, İlayda Ucak starring with her blocking, alongside the impressive serving of Hilal Kocakara. But Sude Hacimustafaoglu took the key points in the third with two aces to give the Turks the lead. Kadochkina was not done for Russia though, and the captain helped her side win the fourth set to force tiebreak, before they pressed home their advantage to clinch the game with Elizaveta Popova’s match point. An enthralling contest, and one Russian coach Svetlana Safronova was happy to win.

“It was an interesting match for sure”, she said after the match. “For the first time in my life I had a yellow card from the referee. I’m happy with the win. My girls didn’t play at their best during the whole match but this is the first tournament for them. We play every match to win.”

Turkish coach Bülent Gunes was humble in defeat, insistent that Turkey finished on the wrong end of a classic. “As you know this is the first EuroVolleyU16W in history and our first match on this level. Both teams are so young but they played so well. The difference came in the serve and reception. I want to congratulate Russia, but we will prepare for tomorrow. It will be a difficult match against Belgium like today and we must play better. This is only the beginning and I expect tougher matches.”

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News nr. 9 of 22
22/07/2017 23:08:00
Italy and Belarus soar to the top of the Pools whilst hosts get off the mark
18/05/2017 11:51:00
Bulgaria braced to host first #EuroVolleyU16W Finals after Drawing of Lots

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