2017 CEV EUROPEAN WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS
Europe’s best teams left it all on the court, giving their less fortunate opponents no chance to shine in the second day of competition in the European Championships, much to the delight of the huge crowds gathering in Azerbaijan and Georgia.
The highlights of the day came at the hands of Italy’s Paola Egonu, who had an amazing juggernaut offensive performance with 32 points in 4 sets against Belarus, and Serbia’s Tijana Boskovic, who had 27 points in only 3 sets of play against The Netherlands. Meanwhile, Russia continued its spotless run despite having fired its coach only hours before the tournament.
Below, you’ll find updated pools and complete CEV recaps from all of the day’s action:
Poland x Hungary 3-1 (25-22, 19-25, 25-17, 25-18)
Poland recorded their second straight victory. They had to work hard for this result, especially in the fourth set to avoid their second tiebreak in as many matches. Poland’s eventual 3-1 victory (25-22, 19-25, 25-17, 25-18) over Hungary virtually secures their spot in the Playoff round and as a result, they will feel no pressure at all when taking on Azerbaijan in their last match in the group phase. Once again, Malwina Smarzek was Poland’s match winner – chipping in with 25 points after she had amassed a haul of 36 the night before against Germany.
As they had done the day before in their matchup with hosts Azerbaijan, Hungary caught a promising start to their game with Poland – whereas the players in white and red shirts looked still a bit tired from the marathon match they had contested the night before – and eventually won – with Germany. The final stages of the opening set were truly exciting but Poland emerged victorious 25-22 to set their sights on a second straight victory in Baku.
The second set was pretty much the same – with Hungary again off to a flying start (8-4), but this time around team captain Rita Liliom and her colleagues were able to hold on to their early advantage and stormed to a 25-19 victory to secure their first set win in this year’s EuroVolley.
However, Poland were up to the task and responded in the best way, setting the pace in the early stages of the third set with their only 21-year-old scoring machine Malwina Smarzek being again the most prolific player on their end after the night before she had recorded as many as 36 points in the matchup with Germany. Poland rallied to a comfortable 20-13 lead and this was enough to double their edge in the match (25-17).
The loud support from a group of fans who had traveled all the way from home to Baku helped Hungary bounce back in the early stages of the fourth set (5-1) and soon it looked like the audience were going to witness the second tiebreak of the day. However, Poland made sure this would not happen; they flipped the charts around with a thunderous comeback and by storming to a 25-18 win, they secured their second victory in as many matches they have contested at the National Gymnastics Arena so far.
Here are the post match reactions:
“Of course we haven’t come here only to play a few matches and gather experience. When you come to a tournament it is natural you want to fight for a medal. I think we are not in the toughest pool, but even if we were, so what? We step onto the court and fight whoever is standing on the opposite side of the net. I think each one of us has her own pressure and ambition – we achieved a good result in the World Grand Prix and we all remember that it felt good and we would like to repeat it, so I hope we can get as far as possible here.” Zuzanna Efimienko, middle blocker of Poland
“We have just won a match of the kind you just have to win. We will do our best to be thoroughly prepared for the next one against Azerbaijan. I know that they are one of the favourites in this European Championship, with great offensive power, and it is going to be a very tough match for us. We fought and lost to them two years ago, when our team had much more experienced players and it is going to be that much more difficult for us this time.” Jacek Nawrocki, head coach of Poland
“My team started the game pretty well but unfortunately they soon began to make mistakes. Of course, Poland have a high-level team and my girls tried to show their best Volleyball against such an opponent. Sometimes we did it, especially as we won the second set. However, Poland were better. I congratulate our opponent and we will now prepare for the match against Germany.” Alberto Salomoni, head coach of Hungary
Georgia v. Croatia 1-3 (12-25, 13-25, 25-23, 23-25)
The first set began with a 4-0 lead of Croatia and Georgia wasted no more time, calling a timeout. The break helped, as Georgia scored the two next points and soon later Svetlana Sosnovskaya scored for 6-4 in attack. The first technical timeout came at 8-5 for Croatia. Bernarda Cutuk performed well at the service line, helping Croatia to go from 9-6 to 11-6 and the visitors patiently widened their advantage to 16-7 at the second technical timeout. A good performance by Katarina Barun at the end of the set, with an ace serve and strong diagonal spikes gave Croatia their first set point at 24-11, and Cutuk finished it with a spike at 25-12.
Croatia did not slow down in the second set, quickly turning the score into a 11-4 lead. Georgia decreased the gap to 14-10, but their own mistakes at the service line allowed Croatia to stay far ahead and call for the second technical timeout at 16-10. After four more points for Croatia, Georgian coach Paata Ulumbelashvili called a timeout. The 10-point lead remained until 23-13 and a block gave Croatia set point at 24-13.
Georgia bounced back in the third set, opening it with a 4-1 lead. An ace by Ann Kalandadze made it 6-2 for the hosting team and forced Croatia to take a timeout. Barun attempted to decrease the point difference to 7-4 with a spike, but Ana Batsatsashvili returned the favour and Georgia led 8-4 at the first technical timeout. The hosting team seemed to have found new motivation and their eager play in defence kept them 12-7 ahead. Ulumbelashvili and his team controlled the game until another technical timeout came at 16-8 for Georgia. An attack by Lucija Mlinar and ace serve of captain Samanta Fabris helped Croatia come closer to 16-11. Georgia’s advantage further melted to 22-19 after offensive play of Fabris and Barun. Croatia got to 22-21, but a double block on Barun and a spike off the block by Kalandadze gave Georgia their first set point at 24-22. Fabris cancelled it with a back row spike, but a long serve error gave Georgia their first set at 25-23.
A balanced battle in the fourth set saw Croatia taking the lead at 6-4, with a quick response of Georgia to 7-6. Barun tied at 7-7, but Mariam Gaprindashvili put Georgia 8-7 ahead at the first technical timeout. Croatia found it difficult to keep their two-point lead at 10-8 and 13-11 and coach Igor Lovrinov called a timeout at 13-12. The break seemed to bring expected effect as Croatia moved to 16-12 at second technical timeout, but Georgia kept fighting back, decreasing the gap to 17-15. Barun served an ace for 20-15, but a good serve by Irina Chelidze put Georgia closer to 20-18. Her series continued until 20-20 when a Challenge confirmed a long spike by Mlinar. The streak was eventually broken at 21-21. Teams continued with a tough fight point by point with first match point for Croatia at 24-22 before Barun finished the match with an attack off the block at 25-23.
Here are the post match reactions:
“I think I will have to send an official request to CEV to shorten the matches to two sets only. It is difficult to explain in a rational way what happens to my team in the third set. I took this team only a week ago, so it is a short time to get the feeling of it. The team is prepared physically, so we have to look for answers elsewhere. My biggest challenge when taking over the team seven days ago was the team’s reaction. I didn’t know how they would respond to such a sudden change. I know all of the players as I worked with them four years ago, but it doesn’t matter now. I don’t know them as a group and I have to find that out as soon as possible to produce some good Volleyball.” Croatia coach, Igor Lovrinov
“We are satisfied with the result, but not with our game. We can play better and show better Volleyball. The first two sets were not at the highest level, but we won them and – again – I can’t explain what happened to us in the third set. We hope we will go to Baku, but tomorrow we still have to face Italy, who are the strongest side in our pool.” Croatia captain, Samanta Fabris
“It was a dramatic match. My team played better today and I think we had a chance to win it, but we weren’t lucky.” Georgia coach, Paata Ulumbelashvili
“We tried our best today, but I understand that our team needs more time and experience to play with consistency and at a higher level. I am sure it will come with time.” Georgia captain, Tinatin Tchautchidze
“After the second set we understood that this match was probably the most important for us at #EuroVolleyW. We knew it is now or never to solve our problems and mistakes. The outcome of that was improved reception and serving, the fans became louder with their support, which helped us win the third set. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough power to make it to the fifth set.” Georgia Outside-spiker, Ann Kalandadze
Italy vs. Belarus 3-1 (27-25, 25-18, 18-25, 25-21)
Italy and Belarus started the match with an exchange of strong shots and blocks and the latter leading 8-7 at the first technical time out after a block on Caterina Bosetti spiking from the back row. Nadzeya Smirnova increased the Belarusian advantage to 12-9 after a spike off the block and Italy took a timeout. The Azzurre continued to close the gap and Belarus led only 16-15 at the second technical time out. The odds turned to Italy’s favour, who went 21-17 ahead. Neither of the teams managed to keep their leads for long as a double block on Valentina Tirozzi allowed Belarus to stay only 22-21 behind and tie at 23-23 when Paola Egonu spiked long from the back row. Cristina Chirichella gave Italy a first set point at 24-23, but Smirnova tied at 24-24, hitting off the block. Her tip evened the score at 25-25, preventing Italy from winning the set for the second time. Egonu eventually took Italy’s third chance and spiked, ending the set 27-25.
Davide Mazzanti’s team opened the 2nd second with a 6-2 run. Belarus struggled in reception, but tried to make up for it in defence, forcing Italy to make a few errors. Bosetti spiked to keep Italy 8-4 ahead at the first technical timeout. Belarus shortened the gap to 10-8, but Tirozzi tipped over the block for 11-8. An exchange of spikes between opposites Aksana Kavalchuk and Egonu moved the score to 12-10 and Italy remained ahead at the second technical timeout (16-13). The Italians stayed in control, increasing their lead to 18-14. Egonu and Tirozzi showed their offensive skills at 21-16 and 22-17. The first set point came at 24-18 after an ace serve of Chirichella and Italy won the set 25-18 after a double block on Kavalchuk.
The odds turned at the beginning of the third set with Belarus leading 7-4. This was soon tied by Italy at 7-7 and the first technical time out came with 8-7 for Italy following a spike by Raphaela Folie. Belarus responded with a series of five points to go 12-8 ahead. Their streak only stopped after a diagonal attack by Egonu. Belarus kept a four-point lead into second technical time out and forced Italy to call a break at 21-15. Italy kept fighting despite being 23-15 behind, with a spike by Chirichella putting them closer to 23-17. A first set point for Belarus came an action later, but they eventually won the third set at 25-18 after a spike off the block by Tatsiana Markevich.
The level on both sides of the net was very balanced since the first rallies of the match. Kavalchuk spiked through the block for 6-6, but Italy went 8-7 ahead at first technical time out of the fourth set after a spike by Chirichella. Both Italy and Belarus continued playing point by point until 10-10, when Italy went 14-10 as serving Folie gave her team a chance for counter attacks. The advantage was extended to 16-10 at the second technical timeout. It seemed like the beginning of their gateway, as Italy worked towards victory at 20-13, but Belarus fought back to 22-17. A double block on Smirnova gave Italy match point at 24-18 and they eventually edged Belarus 25-21 after a middle spike by Folie.
Here are the post match reactions:
“Again I’m not satisfied with our level, we made a lot of mistakes. We have another match ahead of us to work on those elements and prepare for the next phase.” Italy coach, Davide Mazzanti
“The biggest issue on our side was reception, which paid a big role in the result of the first two sets. Once we improved in the third, we were able to play better and win it. We still have to fight to remain in the competition and we have only one choice tomorrow – we have to win against Georgia.” Belarus coach, Piotr Khilko
“We fought until the end, gave all our mental and physical power to play point by point. We were close in the first set, then we won the third, but the Italian team are more experienced and perhaps our level was not good enough to match theirs. Tomorrow we will have to stick together as a team and not let us relax, but fight for every point.” Belarus Middle Blocker, Hanna Guengoer
Bulgaria vs. Ukraine 3-2 (25-23, 21-25, 23-25, 25-11, 15-4)
Ukraine had almost caused the real sensation of the first competition day but they eventually fell short of edging reigning European champions Russia at the tiebreak. As they took to the court of the iconic National Gymnastics Arena for the second time in 24 hours, the question was whether they were still mentally and physically drained from such an effort or if they actually got an extra boost of energy ahead of their matchup from Bulgaria.
The second scenario seemed to be the more realistic one as Ukraine opened the match with an 8-5 run before the ‘Lionesses’ from Bulgaria rallied back to level the score at 8-8. It soon looked like this was going to be a very close game – especially since any victory could prove decisive to make it to the Playoff stage with Russia and Turkey being the pre-favourites in the pool. Bulgaria had more experience at this level to rely on but Ukraine looked determined to fight for their first victory in the tournament – but Strashimira Simeonova secured the first set at 25-23 for Bulgaria after cashing her team’s second opportunity to claim an early edge in the match.
Ukraine responded in the best way to this initial blow as they rushed to a massive 10-3 lead in the second set before Bulgaria fought back to cut their deficit by means of a 5-2 positive run on their end. Even though they had a few blackouts – thus showing the same inconsistency they had in some sections of Friday’s match with Russia – Ukraine were able to hold on their early advantage and with their team captain Nadiia Kodola leading the way, the 2017 European League gold medal winners eventually levelled the match (25-21).
Ukraine made up for their slow start to the third set to turn an early 6-8 deficit into a 12-9 lead and after that, it was a rollercoaster of a game – with Ukraine edging ahead a few times and Bulgaria always closing in. At 23-all, the set could have gone either way – but Anastasiia Chernukha blocked Elitsa Vasileva to secure a first Ukrainian set ball and the next rally went to the European League champions who doubled their lead in the match following a Bulgarian mistake.
The course of the game changed quite dramatically in the fourth set – which Bulgaria dominated from start to end (25-11), thus making sure Ukraine would play their second tiebreak in as many matches and as many days. Mistake after mistake, Ukraine compromised their chances at the beginning of the fifth set (8-2) – and Bulgaria took full advantage of the situation to secure a 3-2 victory, which could prove a truly valuable one in their quest for a spot in the EuroVolley Playoffs.
Here are the post match reactions:
“It was a really difficult match for us. We found our rhythm and we were close to securing a victory but we eventually lost in the fifth set. Well, we have two points after two matches but we need more. The third and last match in the pool phase with Turkey will be a truly decisive one for us.” Gariy Yegiazarov, head coach of Team Ukraine
“Ukraine are the surprise team of this European Championship. I know they have a strong team and they played really well. Some of my players were quite nervous and I can understand their feelings because we played our first match at this year’s Eurovolley. Yes, Bulgaria celebrated a victory today but we must focus on the next game.” Ivan Dimitrov, head coach of Bulgaria
“It was the first official match for me after the birth of my child. Our group is very interesting – there have been tiebreaks in all matches so far. The National Gymnastics Arena is truly amazing – I feel a real Volleyball atmosphere in the hall. I am confident that we can play better in the next matches.” Strashimira Simeonova, middle blocker of Bulgaria:
Turkey vs. Russia 1-3 (23-25, 25-20, 23-25, 20-25)
The real highlight of the day in Baku was the matchup featuring reigning European champions Russia and Turkey – two teams with a strong connection with Azerbaijan and with a large number of fans in attendance at the National Gymnastics Arena. Russia had disappointed a little in their matchup with Ukraine on Friday whereas Turkey were making their debut in the tournament, so there was much to look forward to for the crowd as well as for all those following the match remotely.
Turkey had travelled to Baku with an experienced team placed under the guidance of Giovanni Guidetti – and a roster featuring a number of players who had made history by representing this country at the London 2012 Olympics. As they were chasing their third #EuroVolley medal in history, Turkey had a bit of a rough start to the match but they slowly found their rhythm, cancelling two consecutive set points for their opponents to close in at 23-24. However, Russian star Tatiana Kosheleva was merciless and she eventually finished it off 25-23 to set the tone for a close, exciting match.
Turkey responded with a solid performance producing an 8-5 lead in the second set and much to the delight of their fans the ‘Sultans of the Net’ extended their advantage to 16-10. There was plenty to enjoy with many long rallies as Russia and Turkey put on a real Volleyball show, but this time around Turkey had the upper hand (25-20), thus levelling the match.
Russia coach Konstantin Ushakov made a number of changes to his starting line-up for the third set – and with the help of the outstanding Kosheleva – he achieved the desired effect as his side claimed an 8-4 lead to find their way back into the game. However, this trend did not last for long as Turkey scored five times in a row but the course of the game changed again following a discussion around a challenge called by Turkey. This resulted in a red card to their captain Eda Dündar and their coach Guidetti having to leave the team’s bench for the remainder of the set. Russia sailed to a 17-12 lead but Turkey’s players rose to the occasion fighting their way back to 20-all with great contribution from their outside hitter Neriman Gencyürek. Russia claimed three points in a row, but Turkey did just the same (23-23) before Kosheleva eventually finished a truly dramatic set 25-23.
Turkey obviously felt the consequences of this setback as they trailed 2-8 early in the fourth set and they never quite recovered from this deficit. Despite a late surge by the Turks, Russia finished it off at 25-20, thus recording their second victory in the tournament.
Here are the post match reactions:
“I made some changes to the initial starting line-up and I am happy with the way it worked. We have 14 excellent players on our roster and the second lines are always ready to step in when needed and to cope with any situation we could have to face during our matches. To this extent, I am obviously happy. Three out of the four sets we played tonight were extremely close – and the match was a real fight featuring two excellent teams.” Konstantin Ushakov, head coach of Russia:
Czech Republic vs Belgium 1-3 (19-25, 25-23, 28-26, 25-19)
After a close start, with both teams showing some nerves (3-3), it was the Yellow Tigers that gradually took control of this encounter. Some excellent serving from Lise Hecke helped them build on the lead they had at the second technical time-out (16-12). From here the Czech ladies did all they could, but at the end it was Belgium who took the spoils 25-19. A special mention should go to the final point, as spectacular defence from both sides treated the 2,000 in attendance to a rally to remember.
The second period start with another close set (10-10) and this continued right into the technical time-out after a narrow miss by the Czech captain Aneta Havlickova. This continued until 23-23 when a roof block by Barbora Purchartova of Czech Republic on Belgium number 7, Celine Van Gestel gave her team the first set point. Up stepped Andrea Kossanyiova who served an ace cross court to level the scores at 1-1 (25-23).
The third set started with both teams knowing its importance. Belgium led by five at both technical timeouts, (8-3, 16-11) but as the set grew on, the Czech Republic came back chipping away at the lead on each service rotation. The first set points even went to CZE, with Belgian opposite Van Hecke saving them with a pipe attack, but it was the very same shot that in the end cost them the set 28-26 after she made an attack line fault.
Knowing the importance of this victory, seeing the finishing line seemed to only further encourage the Czech side, while the pressure seemed to multiply on Belgium. The lead grew through the set and many unforced errors that were not present earlier in the match became far too common. It was 10-5, then soon 14-11, before reaching 20-12, but still the Yellow Tigers fought on. In the end it was not enough though as they fell 25-19 in the end with a second touch attack winner.
Here are the post match reactions:
“Incredible because we beat Belgium for 3 points, so now they have to win against Serbia. It was a big step for us, we played like a team. Everybody for everybody and I think that we are all happy.” Pavla Vincourova from Czech Republic:
“This is a big disappointment. For us this was the most important game and for this game we worked. We prepared this game but we were not good enough. We did not play our game and we had lots of problems. In the end they were playing without any pressure and everything worked out really well for them.” Freya Aelbrecht, Belgium middle-blocker:
“Congratulations to Czech Republic. At the crucial moments they played better than us. They made the crucial points. I think we controlled the first set as we played very well. We played good in the second but the team that keeps pressuring all the time and takes the points when it matters is the team that deserves to win.” Gert Broek, Belgian Coach:
Serbia vs the Netherlands (3-0, 29-27, 25-17, 25-23)
This match started at a high tempo, possibly as both teams had been made to wait following the long first game between Belgium and the Czech Republic. The match was close, with the scores level until it reached double figures (10-10), however there were a lot of interruptions with challenges from both teams. The Dutch women pulled ahead by three to reach the second technical time-out and soon this became 20-17. From here it became a battle of the opposites, with the Netherlands straining to stay ahead. Once we had gone beyond 25, Serbia missed three serves in a row but a monster block by Stefana Veljkovic on Lonneke Slöetjes led to a set point and middle-blocker Jovana Stevanovic stepped up and served an ace to take the set from the Dutch grasp (29-27).
The second set was something of a Serbian domination, with the Netherlands team possibly struggling to come to terms with the set points that had gone in the 1st set. From the six-point mark onwards the Serbian team never looked back and took the set 25-17 after a late attempt at a comeback from the Dutch.
The 3rd set started as the 2nd had ended, with both teams trading big blows. Celeste Plak coming on, her and Brankica Mihajlovic seemed to having a battle between themselves on who could hit the ball harder. The scores stayed level at 12-12 and then 18-18. At this point Serbia established a two-point lead and rode this right to the point of match victory (25-23). The highest point scorer, as with the match the previous day was Serbia`s Tijana Boškovic who is just shy of 50 points in the two matches played so far.
Here are the post match reactions:
“I am very happy and proud of the team. We had some problems in the first set but we found a way to come back. I think the first set decided in one way or another the next two sets. We played against a very good team. Two years ago they played the final of the European Championship and for us this is an important victory. I just hope we can continue in this way.” Brankica Mihajlovic, Serbian outside hitter
“Of course we are very happy and satisfied as we won against a very strong team. Practically in the last few months it was the first game that we played really good with a lot of motivation and energy. Especially because of this I am really very happy. And of course because of the tactics as we delivered a really good performance and I hope we keep this until the end of this competition.” Coach of Serbia, Zoran Terzic
“I think they played really well, Serbia did really a good job and I think that if we come up against them later we have a lot of things we can change. I think we fought even after being 2-0 behind and we still kept the fighting spirit so that was a good feeling in the court, but there are some things in the tactics that we need to change with them – so let’s hope we meet them again.” Lonneke Slöetjes of the Netherlands
“Serbia played a great match. I thought we came out and played really strong in the first set, really clean Volleyball. They picked up their game a bit, caught up with us, tied the score and unfortunately we lost that set. The second set we let down a little bit, the third set we fought and we were two or three points shy of pushing it to four. I am disappointed but we will learn from the defeat and we will move on and get better for our next match tomorrow night.” Jamie Morrison, Coach of the Netherlands: