Bulgaria crowned the new #EuroLeagueW champions, Spain claim the bronze in a five-set thriller


    Article Sun, Jun 20 2021

    Bulgaria win the European Golden League in front of their home fans. The Final Four hosts, who organised the tournament in Ruse, Bulgaria, needed four sets to claim victory over Croatia. Bulgarians led throughout the game, but Croatians persisted, challenging the hosts by tying the score in every set. Spain took the bronze medal after beating Czech Republic in a thrilling tie-breaker. Spain came from 1-2 behind to take the control over final set of the match and finish the competition in the third spot.

    Croatia vs Bulgaria
    1-3 (25-22, 22-25, 17-25, 20-25)
    Gold Medal Match

    Supported by a large group of local fans, the Final Four hosts started the match with power, taking a six-point lead at 13-19. Croatia patiently decreased the gap to just 19-21, putting more pressure in the Bulgarians. Their effort paid off as the team reached the set-point at 24-22 and used their first opportunity to win the set with a spike from Matea Ikic.
    A setback in the opening part of the match didn’t put Bulgarians down as they started second set with another lead at 4-8. The advantage soon grew to 5-12, but Croatia hit back scoring three points in a row, forcing Bulgaria to call a time out. Croatia yet again worked their way back from 10-14 to not only level the score at 14-14, but go 17-14 ahead. Bulgarians responded with series of good rallies to jump to 18-20, but Croatia managed to tie the score once more. A single block of Nasya Dimitrova on Klara Perić - who attempted to tip the ball - and an error on Croatian side put Bulgaria at 20-23. The Final Four hosts claimed the set at 22-25.

    Both teams played head to head in the third set, but Bulgaria soon established another significant lead at 5-8 further extended to 9-14. Just like before, Croatia slowly decreased it to 13-16, but this time Bulgaria did not let them even the score. The hosts scored five points in a row, keeping a confident lead over Croatia at 13-21. Bulgaria kept the control until the end of third set, won at 17-25.
    It took a while for Bulgaria to gain a point advantage in the fourth set, as both teams went head to head until 9-9. But a three-point run from the hosts forced Croatia to call a time out at 9-12. The trouble on Croatian side continued when Bulgaria increased their lead to 10-16. Croatia managed to score three points in a row, knowing that their time to strike back in this game is slowly running out. The three-point difference between the teams carried on until 20-23, when Emiliya Dimitrova’s attack have Bulgaria their first match point. Bulgarians used their first opportunity as Dimitrova finished the match with another powerful hit.

    “I am very proud with my team. We began our journey almost a month ago. There are new players in the team. At this point we are not ready to challenge Bulgaria. Now the most important is to grow and to be ready for the EuroVolley 2021. It is very important tournament for us.”

    Daniele Santarelli
    Coach of Croatia
    • Emiliya Dimitrova became the top scorer of the match with 19 points for Bulgaria. She also delivered two final points of the match, giving her team #EuroLeagueW crown.

    • Samanta Fabris trails behind with 18 points for Croatia.

    • Croatia performed slightly better in block, scoring 15 points to 13 blocks of Bulgaria. 

    • Individually Nasya Dimitrova led in blocking with 7 points in this element.

    “The emotions are incredible! I can’t find the right words to describe it! We are proud and happy to be the European Golden League winners. I want to admire my team and the incredible fans. Now we begin to prepare for the EuroVolley. Of course, I know that we made mistakes, but the time for analysis will be after the celebrations.”

    Ivan Petkov
    Coach of Bulgaria
    Croatia challenged the hosts by tying the score in every set.

    Spain vs Czech Republic
    3-2 (28-26, 10-25, 23-25, 25-16, 15-10)
    Bronze Medal Match

    The game began with a close play between both teams, but Spain seemed to be able to go one step ahead of Czech Republic. The Spanish team put pressure on their opponent with a serve, which allowed them to gain a small lead. Czech Republic caught up at 16-16 and soon they went 18-20 ahead after a single block by Pavlina Simanova. Spain kept close, trailing 22-23 and 24-25 behind, but managed to turn the score around in their favour at 27-26. The Spanish side claimed the set with a double block at 28-26.
    Czech Republic responded right away, going 4-8 ahead in the second set. Spain couldn’t find the answer to Czech Republic’s new force as they team doubled the point gap to 8-16. The winning side scored another five points at 9-21 and they maintained the significant lead until they won the set levelled their score against Spain.

    The third set became more competitive, with both teams keeping each other at bay. Czech Republic managed to get a lead at 14-17, but Spain quickly decreased the gap to just 19-20. Similarly to the first set, Spain and Czech Republic fought hard at the end of the set with the Spanish side defending Czech Republic’s first set point, but the Czechs used their second chance and won the set at 23-25.
    Aware of their last chance to extend the match, Spain pushed Czech Republic after the latter created a small lead at the start of this set. Spain tied the score and soon went 17-12 ahead after a single block by one of the team’s leading scorers, Ana Escamilla. Czech Republic found no answer to Spain’s performance and the bronze medal match found its finale in the tie-break, as Spain secured the fourth set 25-16.

    The last set was as intense as any tie-break is expected to be, with Spain controlling the game as they took 8-4 lead. Czech Republic fought back to get to 9-7, but Spain went on a scoring run. Carlota Garcia stopped Veronika Trnkova on a single block, making it 12-7 for Spain and forcing Czech Republic into a tight corner. The match point for Spain came at 14-8, but Czech Republic scored two more points before an error on their side confirmed bronze medal for the Spanish side.

    “It was a very strange game. Too many ups and downs. The third place in the European Golden League is a great achievement for our team. This is the result of 6 years of work. The Final Four confirmed we are going the right way. Now we are expecting the EuroVolley 2021. It will be very difficult. We are Spain and we will go there to win every game.”

    Pascual Suarin
    Coach of Spain
    • Raquel Montoro became the top scorer with 24 points, with Ana Escamilla trailing behind with 23 points.

    • Ana Escamilla led in serve and block, scoring 3 aces and 5 blocks for her team.

    • On the other side of the net Eva Hodanova and Veronika Trnkova led in blocking with 3 points each.

    • Veronika Trnkova led the scoring board for Czech Republic with 14 points, while Andrea Kossanyiova, Eva Hodanova and Gabriela Orvosova scored 13 points each.

    • Czech Republic led initially in block, but Spain caught up as both teams go head to head in this element with 13 and 12 points respectively.

    “We are not happy at all. We controlled the game until 9-7 in the fourth part. Then we lost our power. Congratulations to Spain. Their team fought very hard and deserved to win. We need to learn from our mistakes today, to resolve our weaknesses, and to become better. The organisation of the tournament was excellent. Congrats to the Bulgarian federation.”

    Ioan Athanasopoulos
    Coach of Spain
    Czech Republic fought hard, but were unable to claim the final victory.