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22/07/2017 23:08
Italy and Belarus soar to the top of the Pools whilst hosts get off the mark
2017 CEV U16 Volleyball European Championship - Women

Sofia/Samokov, Bulgaria, July 22, 2017. Italy and Belarus both picked up big wins against Denmark and Russia respectively to go top of their respective pools at the U16 Volleyball Women’s European Championship in Bulgaria. The hosts also picked up their first win of the tournament after getting off the mark against winless Finland in Sofia, whilst the Netherlands are left breathing down the necks of Pool I leaders Italy after they rallied to their second win of the championship against Greece. Turkey and Romania were the other big winners in Pool II, after crucial victories over Belgium and the Czech Republic in Samokov.

Pool I (Sofia)

Italy vs. Denmark 3-0 (25-14, 25-10, 25-11)

It took just under an hour for Pasquale D’Aniello’s Italy to successfully negotiate their match against Denmark in the first game of the day in Sofia, brushing aside their opponents convincingly in straight sets. Emma Cagnin and Loveth Oghosasere Omoruyi were the standout performers for the Italians, and much of D’Aniello’s satisfaction with his team’s serving was owed to Cagnin’s performance. Yet the Italy head coach insisted that there is still more to come from his side in Sofia.

“We are very happy, but we began the game without our usual organisation”, he said after the match. “We then grew into the game and played better; we improved in our play and left our mark on the match. Like yesterday against Bulgaria, the serve was very important, and once we played our Volleyball we won comfortably. There is more to come from us, I don’t know enough about the standard of the teams in Samokov yet, but I hope my team will finish on the podium.”

Denmark coach Mats Olof Björkman acknowledged that Italy were far superior to his side on the day, but believed his team could take pride from their performance. “We hoped for better, but as the game went on we saw they wanted to win and to win convincingly”, he explained. “They played at another level, made very few mistakes, and hit the ball too high for us to deal with. The girls tried their best, but they aren’t ready to face a team as good as this yet. We congratulate Italy for playing a great game, but I’m pleased my players didn’t shy away and didn’t give up. We are happy so far and are still exceeding expectations here”.

Bulgaria vs. Finland 3-0 (30-28, 25-20, 28-26)

Although it seemed academic on paper, Bulgaria were made to work for their first win on home soil in the championship, edging a tempestuous first set before going on to clinch the second and a thrilling third to eventually see off a stubborn Finland. Bulgaria coach Stojan Gunchev had the contribution of Aleksandra Georgieva and 17-point top scorer Maria Yordanova to thank for this victory, and the former of the duo was more than happy with her own performance and that of her teammates.

“It was a tough game but we really wanted to win”, Georgieva said post-match. “I think we played better on the day and I’m happy. We won 3-0 but it was hard, and we did have a bit of luck. We were upset after the game with Italy, but we’re pleased to now have our first win of the championship. Maria (Yordanova) played so well, we all did, and hopefully we can take this confidence into the next games.”

Finland coach Heikki Kosonen remained proud of his team in how they battled in each set despite defeat, but stressed that his team must do the basics better, before praising Georgieva on her performance.
“There are positives to take. We played really well today, but we still must do the little things better. The basics at the end of the sets we must get right if we want to get points on the board. We must serve better, block better, defend better. The margins of victory are in the small details. I’m sorry the girls had no reward for their effort because they played well throughout, but Georgieva I think was the difference in the key rallies, and they did well toward the end of the sets and so were able to edge us.”

Netherlands vs. Greece 3-1 (25-17, 25-21, 23-25, 25-23)

Anna Zijl and Jette Kuipers were the stars for Eelco Beijl’s Netherlands side, hitting 17 and 16 points respectively to help beat a stubborn Greece side in four sets. The mental strength of the Dutch proved key in a tight fourth set in which the Greeks threatened to force a tiebreak, but Beijl believes that the ability of his side to hold their nerve proved the difference.

“It’s a big win for us. We were given a test even though we knew that this Greek team maybe isn’t quite at the same level as us, so I give all credit to Greece for making the game a test for us. The girls found themselves in some difficult situations and had to be strong mentally, but we dug deep and our preparation helped us get through it together. I think when they threatened to equalise but we turned the fourth set around to win showed how much character the girls have. At the end of the day it’s a 3-1 victory so we’re very happy.”

Meanwhile, Greek head coach Konstantinos Gkountas believed mistakes cost his side against the Netherlands, particularly at the end of the rallies, yet remained hopeful his team will be on the right end of the score line against Bulgaria. “We played well but I’m disappointed in our mistakes,” he said. “We made too many errors near the end of the set and maybe got ahead of ourselves when we thought we’d take the set point. I hope that against Bulgaria we will be on the winning side, but at this level it is impossible to know. There are always surprises.”

Pool II (Samokov)

Czech Republic vs. Romania 2-3 (19-25, 17-25, 25-15, 25-19, 13-15)

Romania survived a major scare against the Czech Republic in the opening game of the day in Samokov as what initially seemed a quick affair turned into a 118-minute bout. Seemingly cruising after winning the first two sets, complacency set in and the Czechs - inspired by captain Katerina Kudrlova - duly took advantage, showing great spirit to clinch the third and fourth sets and propel the match to tiebreak; the second five setter of the competition. However, the Czechs could not press home their psychological advantage to complete the comeback, Romania finding their nerve again to clinch the fifth set, and the match.

Romania captain Alexia Ioana Carutasu was once more instrumental for her country, scoring 26 points in total and thrilling spectators with her show of spiking at key moments in the game. It was Carutasu again and Denisa Ioana Ionescu who came up with the key moments in the final set, with a huge double block to swing the tie decisively the way of Romania. The skipper was understandably one of the happiest in the Romanian camp at full-time.

“I’m feeling wonderful and I’m really happy with this victory,” she said afterwards. “We have a great support here in Samokov from parents and friends, which is important and helps us. It was a very tough match but we showed great spirit in the end and managed to win.”

Czech coach Ales Novak also conceded that Carutasu’s performance made the difference on the day.
“In the first two sets, we were under pressure, but in the next three we showed the standard of Volleyball that we’re capable of playing. Our main assets are the serve and the different combinations in offense and I’m happy that we believed in our chances to make a comeback. Congratulations to Romania and I’m a little jealous because they have an amazing player and captain in Alexia Ioana Carutasu, who made the difference today.”  

Carutasu’s own head coach, Marius Macarie, was more relieved to have simply come away with the victory. “Czech Republic are a very strong team which play really well in defence. In the tiebreak, both teams had a lot of ups and downs. Maybe we had a little bit more luck, and with the block at the key moment, the final result is good for us. Tomorrow it will be a really tough match against Turkey because they along with Russia are the best two teams in our Pool.”

Belarus vs. Russia 3-2 (25-23, 25-16, 15-25, 16-25, 17-15)

The scenario for the first game was played out again for the second match of the day in Samokov, the derby between Belarus and Russia. It was underdogs Belarus, led by 26-point top scorer Kseniya Liabiodkina, who powered into a two-set lead before the Russians rallied to restore parity, and just when it seemed the third set was slipping away, they rediscovered their spark to snatch the victory from Russian hands right at the death and seal a dramatic five-set tie-break win. Tatiana Kadochkina was the standout player for the Russians in attack as they mounted their response, contributing some great diagonal spikes. Russia grew in strength as the tie wore on, but it wasn’t enough to ultimately see off a dogged Belarus, who foiled Russia twice at match point with some excellent serving and blocking, before clinching victory with a double block to topple the Pool 2 favourites.

Belarus coach Yahor Pimakhin could not contain his relief, nor the pride he had in his side at full-time as he looked ahead to their next match against the Belgians. “I’m proud of my players! They are heroes!”, he said beaming after the game. “We started really well and won the first two sets but in the third and the fourth we let Russia into it. Then in the tiebreak, my girls managed to regain their focus and became stronger. They were in a very difficult situation at 12-14 down in the tiebreak but did not give up. It’s a great win for us! This victory was achieved with volition, physical and psychological power. Tomorrow we play Belgium - a strong team - which means a new tactical plan and another difficult match.”

Defeat will be a blow to Svetlana Safronova’s side, who almost put the gloss on a sensational comeback only to be denied at match point. Russia’s Ortal Ivgi was amongst those disappointed, but believed her side ran out of luck at the final moment as they ended up on the losing side of a five-setter having won one themselves a day earlier. However, she acknowledged that her side must help make their own luck in future by retaining their focus on court.

“We played well in the first set but after that we lost our focus on the match and Belarus won the first two sets,” she explained. “I’m happy with our reaction because we managed to come back and we were one point away from a great victory. In the tiebreak, it looked like we were the better team. We played well in attack and defence but maybe we needed that little bit more luck to kill off the match.”

Turkey vs. Belgium 3-0 (25-15, 25-14, 25-23)

In the last match of the second day in Samokov, Turkey defeated Belgium 3-0, with Sude Hacimustafaoglu finishing top scorer for the winners with 10 points, including the match point when she spiked through the Belgian double block to secure her team’s first victory at the tournament. With good serving-blocking Turkey played the perfect opening set and won it by 25-15. Libero Gülce Gültekin shone in defence while in attack Elisa Tuana Köse was the most dangerous player with two excellent spikes and two aces. Turkey monopolised play throughout the game with their serving to motor towards victory, before Hacimustafaoglu secured match point with a well-taken spike.

Turkish coach Bülent Gunes was thrilled with his side’s display, which he explained was all down to how his team prepared for the game. “Today tactically we were really well prepared for our opponent,” he said. “We played well, especially in the first two sets. In the third set, we could have been better but despite that, we managed to win and that is important for our confidence in future games. I’m proud of my team and I’d like to congratulate Belgium, because they didn’t give up after the first two sets and played much better in the third set despite the difficult situation for them. Tomorrow I expect a tougher match than today. Belarus have two wins in their pockets so we must prepare well to face them.”

Belgium coach Yorick Vande Velde was proud of his team’s display despite defeat, believing that improvements were already obvious after their opening defeat.
“Today we played better than yesterday against Romania,” he said. “Turkey played as well as expected, but I’m proud with our block-defence because yesterday it was not good. Today it was better. The blocks and rear-defence were good. I think we played well in a lot of rallies and at times we showed a lot of power, a lot of variation, and good fighting spirit, but sets one and two were won by the quality of the Turkish serve. In the third, we started to play better and if we managed to win it, you never know what would happen in the fourth. Despite this I’m optimistic for tomorrow. We’re playing better and better and we will see what will happen in the next game.”  

Click here for further info including detailed stats of the matches

News nr. 8 of 22
23/07/2017 22:42:00
Netherlands keep pace with Italy as Romania take over at the top of Pool II
21/07/2017 22:16:00
Dream starts for six countries on opening day of inaugural U16 Women’s tournament in Bulgaria

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