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18/07/2019 22:00
Surprise: Slovenia shoot themselves into the semis of the #EuroVolleyU16W
2019 CEV U16 Volleyball European Championship - Women

Trieste/Zagreb, Italy/Croatia, July 18, 2019. Slovenia claimed the last tickets for the semis in Trieste beginning this upcoming Saturday. After the end of the pool phase, the die is cast: Serbia, The Netherlands, Germany and France play for the spots 5 to 8, and there is a warm good-bye for Belgium, Romania, co-hosts Croatia and Finland. Russia and Turkey didn’t lose one match so far, Turkey not even a single set. Italy and Slovenia are entering the semis as pool-seconds. But one thing is for sure: exciting matches during the semifinals in Trieste and during the classification in Zagreb are to expect.

All the action from the last day of the pool phase:

 

 

Pool I in Zagreb

 

 

France vs. Germany 3-1 (21-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-19)

 

Winning two sets only to qualify for the semifinals in Trieste, that was the equation, which was searched by the German coaches and staff before the meeting on the court. Afterwards, coach Manual Hartmann was shaking his head, and his players had the tears running down the cheeks, while the French young ladies were celebrating and dancing with pure joy.

The opening match of Day 5 in the SSD Trsnko Sports Hall in Zagreb started with immediate excitement, as both teams fought hardly, not allowing the other to gain any advantage. It was a tight match, until Leandra Rixa Negri decided the set for Germany with two aces in a row. Another tight battle was fought in the second set, even though France had an eight-point-lead, the Germans managed to level the score. But then Tshilanda Diouf helped her Les Bleues tie the set. With the second place of the pool and therefore the qualification for the semis at stake, both teams didn’t give in just one bit in the following set. The Germans took a 6-2 lead, France found their way back in the game, after 13-13 taking over the lead, allowing their opponents just four more points. The scale leaned over towards a French advantage – and it stayed right there. Vaiteani Vaki led the French squad with 15 points, followed by teammates Lilou Ratahiry and Maeva Schalk with 14 and 11, respectively. For Germany Nikola Schmidt was once again the top scorer with 14 points to her name.

 

Philippe Marta, coach of France: “Our girls showed great team spirit, they were focused and strong in defense and service, put a lot of pressure on Germany in tough situations. I am very happy to see our players winning like this, after losing the first set, and I am glad we are still in contention for this tournament.”

 

 

 

 

Croatia vs. Russia 0-3 (17-25, 14-25, 16-25)

 

Five matches, five wins, only one set lost in the pool phase – with such a formidable balance of accounts, Team Russia won not only over Croatia, but stayed on the top of pool with an impressive lead. Not that somebody expected anything different after the first performances of this team in Zagreb but also the hosts couldn’t get Russia to stumble. The young, but tall team dominated the three sets, except during the beginning, when the hosts started with a 3-0 lead. In the third set, the Russians put the pedal to the metal to lead 8-0 and secure a record of five wins out of five matches, but the Croatian girls kept their heads up.

Miodrag Stojaković, head coach of Croatia: “We played against the strongest team, which I think, we will be seeing in the final. Our goal was to teach the girls how to compete at the highest level, and I think we succeeded at that. Of course I am sorry we lost and finished the tournament this way, but I am proud of my girls, they gave their best and I am sure, this was a great lesson for them.” 

 

 

Finland vs. Slovenia 0-3 (18-25, 14-25, 19-25)

 

After the unexpected German defeat vs. France earlier at this final day of the pool phase, suddenly it was Slovenia with all the chances to reach the semifinals in Trieste. And they took it. During warm-up, the Slovenian squad was dancing to the tunes of “Cotton Eye Joe” from Rednex, after the match, they didn't need any music to dance. Simple joy was enough. After a 16-16 tie in the first set vs. Finland, they managed to secure the first period. Although the white-blue dressed girls from Finland again presented great fun on the court and never stuck their heads in the sand, it was the Slovenians, led by a strike of service winners by Naja Salamun (18 points, 8 aces), who only struggled a little bit, finishing the match, needing a few attempts to deliver the match point.

Lucija Grubišič-Čabo, captain of Slovenia: “We played our last match in Zagreb and it was our best match in all aspects of the game, but this is only the beginning. Now we set our minds to Trieste, where we will play even better and show much more. We believed in ourselves from the beginning, that is why we are in the semifinals now.”

 

Pool II in Trieste

 

Belgium vs. Romania 3-2 (23-25, 22-25, 25-16, 25-16, 15-13)

 

 In the first game of the last day of the pool stage, the PalaChiarbola in Trieste was the stage for the teams from Belgium and Romania. For both teams it was the last appearance during the #EuroVolleyU16W. With Romania celebrating one victory yesterday, apparently it was now the time for the Belgian team to finally experience the same success. But before that, both teams presented an exciting five-setter. Even if the match was imprinted by many mistakes from both sides, Romania firmly managed to win the first set. Following this, Belgium was able to edge ahead, building up a little lead but Romania came back, scored nine points in a row and with this boost they also took the second period. But the next two sets it was the young Belgians scoring. This match needed a tiebreak to crown the winner. As many expected, Belgium and Romania followed each other closely, but at the end it was the Belgian determination bringing in a tight win – the first one in the tournament.

This result automatically qualified Serbia and The Netherlands for the classification matches for places five to eight, coming up on Saturday in Zagreb.

 

Yorick Vande Velde, coach of Belgium: “I’m very happy about this victory in our last match. Actually we could have done better, but this single win during the European Championship, after losing four matches in a row is very important for our team and its future. That’s why I’m feeling very happy for the girls: with our mentality we overcame a lot of  difficulties and that’s important”.

 

The Netherlands vs. Serbia 2-3 (25-18, 20-25, 25-22, 12-25, 11-15)

 

Both teams were already qualified for the classification matches for fifth to eight rank, which take place in Zagreb from Saturday on. However, this match was crucial for the final ranking within the pool and with the Serbian success, they finished third in Pool II.

The young Oranjes started out great, with a very well positioned blocking game and seven points by Nicole van de Vosse. Then, Serbia tied. After that, the Dutchies acted with more precision despite the great performance of the Serbian outside spiker Stefana Pakic. After missing out on six set points, the Netherlands finally brought the set home. But again, Serbia tied and led the match into the tiebreak, where the young Serbians just had the better flow at the end.

 

Zeljko Scepanovic, coach of Serbia: “Both teams are very talented and could play for a medal. Unluckily we won’t. Our primary goal was to reach the semifinals. We can’t say, that it doesn’t matter now. But we are travelling to Zagreb trying to win all the matches to finish at least 5th in Europe.”

 

Italy vs. Turkey 0-3 (15-25, 16-25, 22-25)