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30/05/2010 00:00
Spanish girls stun Croatia to claim a slot for the next European Championship
2011 CEV European Championship - Women

Luxembourg, May 30, 2010. Spain was certainly the major sensation in the final competition day of the 2nd round qualifiers for the next CEV Women’s European Championships as the girls around Dutch coach Gido Vermeulen stamped a classy performance in Madrid to outclass Croatia and reverse the result of the previous match played last week in Osijek. Romania and Ukraine also qualified for the final round of the European Championship to join Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria for what stands out as an overall dominance of the Eastern European countries. The third and last qualification round is scheduled for next September and will consist of home/away matches featuring these pairs: Croatia vs. Belgium, Belarus vs. Israel and France vs. Finland.

Click here for detailed results, statistics and final standings

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Pool A in Baku (AZE)

Bosnia & Herzegovina vs. Georgia 3:0 (25-13, 25-9, 25-11)
Azerbaijan vs. Belarus 3:0 (25-13, 25-20, 25-18)

The home heroines of the Azerbaijani national team delighted their many fans in Baku with another classy performance to walk over Belarus in three sets and qualify – for the fourth consecutive time – for the final round of the European Championship. The score stayed pretty close in the second and third set but the success of the girls around coach Faig Garayev was never in real danger. Local superstar Natalya Mammadova scored 16 points and was well supported by raising Polina Rahimova who contributed 9 to the final Azerbaijani count.
This afternoon Bosnia & Herzegovina completed its campaign in the European Championships with a comfortable 3:0 win against Georgia. The game was not going to have any impact on the final standings of Pool A, but the Bosnians played with all their spirit to display a solid performance and finish their job on the right track.

Pool B in Agde (FRA)

Hungary vs. France 0:3 (25-27, 18-25, 19-25)
Austria vs. Czech Republic 0:3 (14-25, 19-25, 7-25)

France picked up its ticket for the third and last qualification round – to play there against Finland – with a quick and imperative victory against Hungary (3:0) on the final competition day of Pool B in Agde. Even though they were forced to play without their captain Anna Rybaczewski, who had suffered an injury on her knee, the French girls closed a very tough first set (27-25) after having diverted a set point (24:25). "We faced some difficulties in entering the game”, recognizes Maéva Orlé, “the Hungarian team displayed some very good reception and was very solid also with their serving”. Youngster Camille Crousillat (20 years of age) entered the game and boosted her mates with a mighty performance for the final 3:0 (25-18, 25-19). The injury of Hungarian libero Molcsanyi in the beginning of the third set blew up the final hopes of the team from Budapest.
On the other hand, the Czech Republic finished its campaign with a big smile. Being already qualified for the final round of the next European Championship, coach Siller opted for some back-up players and Buckova was the sole being included in the starting six in comparison with yesterday’s match against France. “The best players have been playing all matches so far. It was good for the others players to feel the atmosphere of the game. It was an important choice for the team”. This turn-over was not enough for the Austrians to cause some shakes to the final leader of this Pool. In front of an opponent always handicapped by the real lack of size and power (only 29% of efficient attacks in the first set), the Czechs remained merciless. The efforts of Chinese-born Lihua Ma (10 points after the first two sets) were not enough to cause a major upset.

Pool C in Sheffield (GBR)

Great Britain vs. Ukraine 0:3 (10-25, 18-25, 15-25)
Israel vs. Slovakia 3:0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-22)

Ukraine booked their place for the 2011 European Championship with a display of panache and power to dismantle Great Britain 0:3 at Ponds Forge, Sheffield. Having lost in five sets to Slovakia the previous night, Ukraine needed to take just two sets to confirm their place in the finals - finished in style. It was a flat final performance from the GB girls but coach Audrey Cooper still took positives from the weekend. “We didn’t play like ourselves and struggled to get any rhythm,” admitted captain Lynne Beattie. “That carried into the second and third sets as we struggled to score against the big Ukraine block and their middle caused us problems and we didn’t do enough to stop it”. Coach Audrey Cooper added: “Initially, I was surprised at the way we played. We lost our discipline and for us that’s huge and at times we looked disorganized. I’m not surprised that we couldn’t put a third game together as that’s tough and we haven’t had much experience of that. We were a little bit fatigued today and you could almost see that it drained out of us and the thought process wasn’t there. But we’ll regroup for the matches in the European League”. Ukrainian coach Volodymyr Buzaiev was happy to have secured a finals berth after the previous night’s loss to Slovakia. “Great Britain team is well prepared and trained,” he said, “All the players are in good condition but they need one big personality - nobody knows from where - who can take the responsibility when needed. They have a good team but they need one strong personality. I was happy with the way we played and it is good to qualify for the finals. Slovakia played very well against us as it was their last chance to get to the next stage but we knew we had to win today”. GB, seeking to build on their performance against Israel the previous day, started solidly and led 3:1 with Rachel Bragg finding success through the middle.
But Ukraine hit back and put pressure on the GB receivers who struggled to cope with the tough serving of Inna Molodtsova. After Lynne Beattie leveled the set at 6-6, Ukraine - with Molodtsova serving - won 11 of the next 12 points to take the set out with the reach of the home side. Ukraine led 17:7 before GB setter Lucy Wicks temporarily halted the onslaught with a second ball attack to catch Ukraine unprepared. But it was only a brief respite and head coach Audrey Cooper was forced into a time-out at 9:19. Janine Sandell was introduced late in the set to gave GB some firepower but Ukraine comfortably took the set 25-10. GB again led early in the second set 4:2 and then 6:4 on a service ace from Bragg and then a hitting error from Tetyana Kozlova stretched the lead to three points, 7:4. A back-court hit from Beattie moved it to 12:7 and left-hander Maryna Zakhozha hit long as GB moved into a strong position at 14:8. But, as in the first set, Ukraine put together an impressive string of points. With Zakhozha serving tough, Ukraine won the next six points - Molodtsova enjoying some success through the middle as the set stood at 14:14. Sandell put GB a point in front with a smash off the block but it was to be the last time GB led in the set. Nadiya Kosylo and Zakhozha both punctured the GB block down the sides as Ukraine moved up a gear and, when Sandell was just out with a cross-court hit, it brought up the first set point. The impressive Molodtsova provided the final point as Ukraine took the set 25-18 and with it secured their place in the Euro 2011 finals. Ukraine were intent on finishing with a flourish and a GB net touch gave them a 6:2 lead in the third and forced coach Cooper into a time-out. GB was made to work for every point and, even when they managed to get past the towering block, it was picked up in the back court. By the first technical time-out, Ukraine had stretched their lead to 8:2. Cooper was forced into another time-out at 3:11 and then Beattie found the Ukraine block impenetrable as Ukraine took the next point. There was some brief resistance from GB when they came back from 6:17 to 10:17 when Grace Carter blocked out Kosylo but Ukraine kept pummeling the GB defense. Molodtsova brought up match-point with another stunning hit through the middle and it was all over for GB when Sandell could not deal with Kozlova’s serve as Ukraine took the set 25-15 to win the match.
Israel advanced to the third round with a straight sets 25-21 25-21 25-22 win over Slovakia in the final match in Pool C. Israel have not played in the final of the European Championship since 1971 and were also there when current coach Arie Selinger was in charge in 1967. Now they face Belarus in September to attempt to take the final step. His players all had the Israeli flag transferred onto their left arms as part of a bonding process instigated by captain Tatyana Frage-Berger. “We are very happy to win 3:0,” she said, “We were nervous at the beginning but we wanted to show our best Volleyball and it was important to begin hard and to maintain a high level to the end. We had to stay cool in all elements of our team”. Selinger stressed: “That’s the highest level of achievement by the Israeli team for 40 years or so. Slovakia played a very high level against Ukraine and we were hoping they were a bit tired. They were satisfied and confident and we worked very hard and concentrated and we were able to shift the balance in our favor. We have two very strong spikers and our serving also gave them problems. We were the underdog and maybe they underestimated us a little”.
Slovakian coach Miroslav Cada, who was given a yellow card in the second set, admitted: “Israel was much better in attack and when they have two such good attackers it was quite enough”. His captain Monika Smak added: “We realized we couldn’t defend well against two significant attackers in the Israel team and our attack was not like matches before but that was also because of the play of Israel”. Israel took the first set 25-21. At 23:19, Anna Velikiy served into the net to give Slovakia hope they could still salvage it but Tatiana Artmenko scored with a crosscourt hit through position four to bring up the first set point.
Slovakia managed to save one set point but Artmenko came up with the final point off the block to clinch the set. Artmenko started the second set on fire as Israel quickly established a 3:0 lead and her team-mates responded as Israel built up a commanding 10:3 lead. But Slovakia kept coming back with Lucia Hatinova finding success with her hitting and blocking. Six times Slovakia closed it to within one point before finally drawing level at 18:18 when Hatinova found the gap through the middle. The set ended in controversy with Inessa Vysotski’s deep serve given in, in spite of Slovakia’s protests that it was long. Coach Miroslav Cada was shown a yellow card for his outburst as Israel claimed an important point to lead 22:20. Slovakia never recovered their composure and Daniela Rojkova served into the net to bring up Israel’s first set point which they accepted to take the set 25-21 and build a two-set lead.
Israel felt they had the match in their grasp and led 5:1 early in the third set with an explosive backcourt hit from Velikiy. It was 6:1 before Rojkova pulled a point back but Artmenko then powered over another point from position four. In a high-quality set, Slovakia closed the gap to one point 9:8 when Ivana Bramborova penetrated the block and then the teams matched each other point for point with no team leading by more than a point until Israel broke to 20:18 when Velikiy tipped over the block. Israel led 22:20 before Slovakia twice closed it to one point deep in the set but Velikiy was in unstoppable form. She brought up match point with an outstanding crosscourt spike from position two and Artmenko closed out the match 25-22 with a spike from four off the block.

Pool D in Tres Cantos (ESP)

Switzerland vs. Montenegro 3:0 (25-21, 25-20, 26-24)
Spain vs. Croatia 3:0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-11)

Spain will play the final round of the 2011 CEV European Championship. Spain beat this afternoon Croatia 3:0 in the final match of the qualification tournament held in Tres Cantos (Madrid) and earned the ticket for Euro 2011. The Spaniards and Croatians clashed on Sunday in a match in which the winning team would have made it to the final round of the European Championship. That team turned out to be Spain that starred in a spectacular match to finish first in group D. The 3:0 victory of Croatia over Spain in the first round of the tournament left the Spanish team with the necessity to achieve the same result in order to qualify. The task appeared too much to handle, as Croatia had only lost one set throughout the tournament. However, Spain presented a spectacular performance on home ground. The team trained by Gido Vermeulen played at its best, giving no room to a Croatian squad unable to react against the power showed by the Spaniards. The setting of Patricia Aranda and the blocks and attacks of Marisa Fernandez as well as the winning attitude of the whole team drove Spain to an unexpected three-set victory. The final 3:0 meant a ticket to Euro 2011 for Spain. Croatia finished in second position of the group and will play round 3 to earn the qualification.
"It has been spectacular," said coach Vermeulen. "We played an outstanding game; it was another final for us and all the players have been magnificent," said the coach. "It was a surprise for me to win 3-0 and to some extent I was pleasantly surprised that the team has responded so good at playing against a top team like Croatia. Spain is now a major factor in women’s Volleyball”. As for the match itself, Vermeulen noted that the key was at the reception. "The philosophy was that both teams were equal on the net, but the difference was the reception that was the key," said the Dutch, who also noted that the strong motivation of the team today is the implementation of an idea that has this team: "If you can dream it, you can achieve it." Marisa Fernandez was jubilant after the victory and noted that "We have worked very hard for this match, we have studied Croatia a lot, we knew where we were going to attack, where are placed their best players, we played at a hundred per cent”. The captain of the Spanish team, Amaranta Fernández, stated that "I am very happy; we have taken this opportunity we had. We expected that Croatia would play at a high level but we were better. We worked hard to get a ticket to the next European Championship and we are going to enjoy this success”. The newcomer Milagros Collar was a reflection of the joy of the team: "I still cannot believe it, debuting with the national team like this, playing in a new position, opposite, as I am usually a middle blocker and getting a hit like this. We have achieved our objective and now we will start working towards the European League”.
In the other match of the day, Switzerland got its reward in the tournament obtaining a convincing victory (3:0) over Montenegro. The Swiss squad used its experience to beat the young team from Montenegro in a match controlled by the players trained by Severin Granvorka. The spikes of Mandy Wigger and the serves of Anna Protasenia helped Switzerland to overcome a Balkan squad led by Tatjana Bokan (16 points). The 25-21, 25-20 and 26-24 gave Switzerland the victory 3:0 and the third position in group D.

Pool E in Constanta (ROU)

Sweden vs. Slovenia 1:3 (20-25, 20-25, 25-19, 18-25)
Romania vs. Belgium 3:0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-20)

Romania secured a spot for the final round of the 2011 CEV Women’s European Championship after achieving its sixth victory in a row in the second qualification round in Pool E. A big fight between Romania and Belgium was scheduled on Sunday evening for the single ticket at stake for the final round of the next European Championship in the qualification tournament being held in Constanta, on the Black Sea coast of Romania. Unbeaten, the Romanian girls needed only a sum of points in the last game with Belgium (one lost game with Romania, in the first round robin tournament held in Hasselt). The first set begin in storm with big pressure from the host team - first time out for Belgium at 4:1, then 8:3 for Romania at the first technical break. With the Belgians very motivated, the difference came more tight, but not so much - 16:13 and 19:19 but, in the end, 25-21 for the only necessary and sufficient set for Romania and the fight for qualifying was over! More relaxed, the Romanian team began the second set with a large amount of winning points/errors, keeping the score at 5:5 and 8:5, then 16:12 at the second technical time-out. The Belgians still worked hard for a good result, but there was nothing to do: 25-20 and 2:0. The third set was a closed affair, with the Romanian girls already thinking of celebration and an ambitious Belgian team coming up with a moment of pride: 8:4 and 16:11, but then 17:17 and finally 25-20 for Romania. Best players of the match: Daiana Muresan, Diana Neaga, Mirela Corjeutanu (Romania), Liesbet Vindevoghel (Belgium).
With no chances to claim any spot for the final round of the 2011 CEV Women’s European Championship, Sweden and Slovenia played much better than they did against Belgium and Romania respectively, just yesterday, when they both lost their matches. The first set was very balanced from the beginning, teams played point for point up to the first technical time-out (8:6 for Sweden) and the second mandatory break (16:14, Slovenia). The same play continued until the final points (19:19) before Slovenia claimed the first set 25-20. It was a better start by Slovenia in the second set as they sped to a 7:2, then 8:5 lead, while Sweden was still in shock after having lost the first set. At the second technical time-out it was clear that the Slovenian girls were likely to extend their lead, with the opponents giving away points from their own mistakes - 16:10. From this moment, Sweden tried to survive, but Slovenia fought for every point and took the second set with the same score (25-20). The Slovenians didn't keep their focus in the third set, giving a last opportunity to Sweden – that cruised away for the 6:1, 8:4 and then to 16:13. And the Nordic girls took their chances, for a surprisingly but logical 25-19. Slovenia came back in the fourth set to lead 5:0 and 8:4 at the first technical time-out as they did not do any longer the same mistakes from the third set. This time they held their nerves, leading also at the second technical time-out 16:11. The rest of the routine showed Sweden decided to end the game before the decisive set: 25-18. And so, Sweden remains the only team that lost all the three games of the second round robin tournament played on Romanian soil. Best players of the match were Karmen Kocar and Marina Cvetanovic (Slovenia), Lina Sundström (Sweden).

Pool F in Samokov (BUL)

Finland vs. Greece 2:3 (21-25, 25-22, 24-26, 25-17, 4-15)
Portugal vs. Bulgaria 0:3 (7-25, 15-25, 19-25)

Finland finished second in Pool F, thus saving its chances to participate in the final round of the 2011 CEV Women’s European Championship through the next qualification round. In the thrilling decider against Greece in the Bulgarian town of Samokov today, the Northern European side lost 2:3 (21-25, 25-22, 24-26, 25-17, 4-15), but still advanced on set ratio. Finland needed to win at least one set today to secure the second place and they went right for it by taking a 4-point lead at the beginning of the match. The Greeks knew they had nothing to lose and gradually tied at 14. They continued laboring through the set to close it at 21-25 after a fast hit through the middle by Georgia Tzanakaki. Things got really interesting in the second set. Again, Finland was up 8:3 at the first technical break and, again, the Southerners came back from behind to balance it at 11:11 and take a 3-point lead immediately after that. However, the Nordic team kept cool, equalized at 19 and advanced to 21. Greece tried to fight back, but an off-the-net ace by Noora Lainesalo finished the set off at 25-22 and brought smiles to the Finnish faces in the competition hall. Although everything in Pool F was already clear, the two head coaches managed to motivate their players to continue the battle for victory. In set 3, ‘Suomi’ closed a 5-point gap only to allow ‘Hellas’ to narrowly take the set 24-26. With excellent attacking performance by the game’s top scorer Saara Esko (25 points) Finland fought back to win the fourth set 25-17. However, the Greeks completely dominated the tie-breaker and won it by a large gap, 4-15, with a finishing touch by Marina Kalaintzieva. The team’s top scorer for this match (18 points) and for the entire tournament Evgenia Vasileva Tsima said: “We won, but not the way we wanted. However, to us, this was a step forward both technically and tactically”. “We needed to win one set and that made us really nervous,” Tore Aleksandersen, head coach of Finland said after the game. “When we did it, we were not able to do anything more, mentally and physically. I am really glad we came through to the third round, although, to be honest, I really did not expect it before the qualifications started”.
In the second match of the day, hosts and pool winners Bulgaria with some of their usual starting players resting on the bench beat Portugal 3:0 (25-7, 25-15, 25-19) for the protocol. Still the local crowd showed up at Samokov to wish the Lionesses good luck in the upcoming European League and next year’s European Championship. After the match was over, the team presented flowers to returning veterans Evelina Tsvetanova and Antonina Zetova to thank them for their great contribution to this success.

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