2017 CEV EUROPEAN WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS
- September 22 to October 1
- Azerbaijan and Georgia
- Power Rankings
Title favorites Italy and Serbia started off Eurovolley with easy 3-0 wins against Georgia and The Czech Republic, respectively. The scare of the day came from current champions Russia, who needed five sets to down underdogs Ukraine. As was to be expected, Russia’s sudden firing of its coach only hours before the start of the competition must have knocked out their focus.
Below, you’ll find updated pools and CEV game recaps from all of the day’s action:
Hungary vs. Azerbaijan 0-3 (23-25, 14-25, 16-25)
Hosts Azerbaijan had a little bit of a rusty start to their matchup with Hungary as they obviously felt the pressure resulting from the home debut but they eventually got rid of it – and they did so in style! After coming from behind in the opening set, they rallied to a comprehensive 3-0 victory (25-23, 25-14, 25-16) over Hungary to get proceedings underway in Pool A of the 2017 women’s EuroVolley. They provided something to cheer about not only to a raucous home crowd, but also to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, who paid a visit to the National Gymnastics Arena on the opening day of the historic tournament co-hosted by Azerbaijan and Georgia.
After a furious start by the home side, who were obviously extra motivated to please the 4,500+ crowd in attendance at the National Gymnastics Arena, Hungary rapidly found their rhythm to lead the way almost from the beginning to the end of the opening set. Azerbaijan’s reception looked way too shaky for the hosts to be able to develop their game and this resulted in a five-point advantage for the visitors at the second technical time-out. However, Azerbaijan suddenly woke up and stormed back to 18-19 – after finally getting rid of the pressure they inevitably felt while making their debut at a historic #EuroVolleyW on home soil. The hosts eventually levelled the score at 22-all, as the noise inside the hall was getting louder and louder. A crosscourt by Polina Rahimova flipped the charts around and Azerbaijan crowned their comeback with success as they cashed their second set ball (25-23).
After overcoming their initial troubles, Azerbaijan found their game and much to the delight of their State President, Mr Ilham Aliyev, who was closely watching the match from the stands, they put on a real show in the second set. Rahimova looked almost unstoppable and Hungary could not do much to stand the physical prowess of their opponents despite the loud cheers coming from a small group of Hungarian fans in attendance. Azerbaijan’s success in the second set was a pure formality – and it eventually turned into reality at 25-14 following another kill by Rahimova.
The early stages of the third set were far less one-sided with Azerbaijan leading by one point only at the first technical time-out. However, slowly but surely Azerbaijan opened a comfortable gap (17-12) and the home team’s show continued until Kseniya Poznyak sealed a 25-16 win passionately celebrated by a jubilant home crowd and by President Aliyev as well.
Here are the post match reactions:
“The first set was what we wanted to achieve, to have this kind of focus for the whole game, but at 16-11 we started to lose concentration and thinking that this may not be the right position for us. From that moment on, we wanted to come back, but they were always a step or two steps ahead of us. As for the next match against Poland, we are going to try our best; we will not put our heads down but keep playing.” Rita Liliom, team captain of Hungary:
“We started very well and made it very difficult for Azerbaijan. We had a good strategy and the girls did great in executing that strategy from the very start. Unfortunately, we lost that first set. If we had won it, this would have completely changed the game. After we lost the first set, Azerbaijan were calmer and with the weapons they have like Rahimova and Natalya Mammadova they put us in a difficult situation. I would not say we started to play bad – Azerbaijan started to play better. We are the underdog also in the next match and we will do just the same – make it difficult for the opponent and take the chance when we have such a chance.” Alberto Salomoni, head coach of Hungary
Poland vs. Germany 3-2 (23-25, 25-15, 18-25, 25-23, 15-5)
The last match on schedule for the opening day of the 2017 women’s EuroVolley in Baku featured two teams who have been undergoing a rejuvenation process of their roster and as a result did not set any too specific goals for this tournament. After many turnarounds, and a difficult start to the match, Germany emerged victorious at the end of a closely contested opening set (25-23).
However, Germany team captain Maren Fromm & Co. could not quite keep the same level of intensity and quality in the second set where Poland rallied to a massive 16-9 lead at the second technical time-out. The players in white and red shirts did not look back anymore and comfortably secured a 25-15 win to level the match.
This same trend continued in the early stages of the third set where Poland cruised to a 6-2 lead, before the Germans finally found their way back into the game. They significantly raised the level of their performance and this eventually resulted in a 25-18 win for the side coached by Felix Koslowski.
After so many ups and downs on both sides, the fourth set was a much closer affair – with Germany securing a small advantage at the second technical timeout (16-14). The final section of that set was truly dramatic and exciting with Poland coming back strong with the help of their star opposite Malwina Smarzek and some smart play orchestrated by their setter and team captain Joanna Wolosz. Despite her young age, as she is only 21, Smarzek rose to the occasion and a German mistake paved the way towards the second tiebreak of the day in Baku.
This somehow provided a supplementary boost of energy to the Poles who rallied to a 6-1 lead in the fifth and all-deciding set, and this was a blow Germany could not recover from. Poland widened their advantage to 12-4 and they were rewarded for their resilience as they eventually celebrated a 3-2 victory to start their #EuroVolleyW campaign on a high note.
Italy v. Georgia 3-0 (25-14, 25-12, 25-12)
Caterina Bosetti’s serve allowed Italy to take an early two-point lead, maintained after Christina Chirichella’s attack at 5-3. An ace by Valentina Tirozzi made it 7-3 and Chirichella took Italy to the first technical timeout at 8-3 after another attack. Valentina Tirozzi proved a difficult server for Georgia, who call a timeout at 10-3 after a spike from Bosetti. Ann Kalandadze made a sixth point for her team as Italy couldn’t keep the ball in play. Bosetti responded with a back row spike and following with an ace, she brought Italy to 16-6 at a second technical break. The Georgian team found it tough to fight back and their own mistakes extended Italy’s lead to 22-8. And yet Davide Mazzanti’s players made a sudden number of errors, thus taking a timeout when Georgia responded with a four-point streak to 22-12. The Italians fought back after the break, eventually closing the set 25-14.
The offensive power of Raphaela Folie, Valentina Tirozzi and Paola Egonu opened the second set with a 3-0 run for Italy. Chirichella maintained a good serve, giving Italy a 10-3 lead in no time. Coach Paata Ulumbelashvili called a timeout when Italy increased their lead to 12-3. Things did then improve on Georgia’s side as Italy slowly but surely worked their way towards the end of the set with Sara Bonifacio scoring an ace for 24-12.
A powerful attack by Egonu put Italy 4-1 ahead and the set stopped with an Italian 8-3 lead at the first technical time out. Chirichella’s continuous good serve allowed her team to play calmly in attack. An ace by Ana Kipshidze pushed Georgia to get some motivation despite being 8-17 behind. Ana Batsatsashvili put Italy in trouble with her serve and Bosetti’s long spike gave the home team their 12th point. Egonu hit back from the back row for 23-12. A double block on Julieta Sanadze gave Italy a match point and the game finished at 25-12 with an overkill from Folie.
Here are the post match reactions:
“We didn’t play as high level as we could have, but I am glad as this is was important match to win. It is always crucial to enter the competition well and we did it. It is not easy to be fully concentrated throughout the entire match, so we did make some mistakes at times. We will have to make sure to not make them in next matches.” Italy coach, Davide Mazzanti
“We did a great job today in all elements. We were very well prepared mentally, as it is important to keep concentration not only on the first day of competition, but against every opponent.” Italy captain, Christina Chirichella
“It wasn’t news for us that the result might end up looking like this. Italy are one of the strongest teams participating in this tournament and they played very well against us. I can’t say that we lack experience, but it is very hard to face strong teams like Italy.” Georgia coach, Paata Ulumbelashvili
“We were not able to defeat Italy today, as they are incredibly strong team and a multiple medallists of many international competitions. It was a very hard lesson against very experienced team and we will do our best in the future to achieve our own success.” Georgia captain, Tinatin Tchautchidze
Belarus v. Croatia 3-2 (10-25, 15-25, 25-21, 25-20, 15-9)
Croatia open the match with a 6-3 lead, but a double block on Katarina Barun put Belarus closer to 6-4. Croatia scored two more points, making it 8-4 at the first technical time out. A block on Anzhelika Barysevich helped to maintain Croatia’s lead to 12-7. Ivana Prokopic, Katarina Barun and Samanta Fabris proved to be on point in block again, taking the team to second technical time out at 16-8. Their streak continued until 22-8 and Barun sealed the deal in the first set attacking through the block for 25-10.
Both teams began the second set with a point by point exchange, but Barun took Croatia 7-4 ahead with her serve. One of the longest rallies in the match could have helped Belarus to decrease Croatia’s advantage, but Samanta Fabris spiked from the back row taking her team to 8-5 at first technical time out. This was only the beginning of Croatia’s gateway as they increase the advantange to 13-7, forcing Belarus to take a time out. Fabris and Prokopic blocked Hanna Klimets for 16-8 at the second technical time out. Volha Palcheuskaya, Nadzeya Smirnova and Hanna Guengoer responded with a triple block on Samanta Fabris for 18-12. Guengoer was unable to score from her tip, as the ball came back on her side giving Croatia 20-12. Klimets extended the fight at 24-15 with a block, but Fabris spiked in the next action, giving Croatia second set at 25-15.
Belarus took the first lead in the match, with a 3-2 after an attack by Palcheuskaya. Their effort allowed the team to go 8-4 at the first technical time out, but advantage melted to 9-8 after a spike from Fabris and error on Belarus’ side. Fabris remained strong part of her team as her spike tied the score at 11-11. An incredible defence of Volha Pauliukouskaya helped Belarus to stay 14-13 ahead and Barysevich spiked through the middle to give Belarus 16-14 lead at a second technical time out. This time Belarus were able to maintain their advantage, as Guengoer tipped the ball for 21-17. Croatia kept fighting, patiently working to decrease the point difference to 24-21, showing impressive defence skills, but Belarus did not let the set out of their hands, winning 25-21 after a spike by Barysevich.
Croatia bounced back and after 4-4 tie, they took a lead 8-5 at the first technical time out, when Aksana Kavalchuk spiked into the net. The three-point lead was maintained until 13-10, but an ace by Palcheuskaya gives Belarus new energy to hit back. Ema Strunjak showed her serving skills in return, stopping Belarus from chasing the score and Croatia led 16-12 at the second technical time out. Their advantage melted soon after when Nadzeya Smirnova spiked for 18-17 and her ace serve put Belarus ahead at 20-19. Croatia called a time out, when Belarus scored at 21-19, increasing their chances for a tie-break. Guengoer scored with an overkill for 23-19 and an ace by Smirnova gave Belarus first set point. Lucija Mlinar took Smirnova off the service line, but a long serve from Croatia gave Belarus victory at 25-20, extending the match into five sets.
Both teams stepped on the court with a strong attitude, keeping the score tight. Barysevich spiked through the middle, keeping score tied at 6-6 and the switch side came at 8-6 for Belarus when Smirnova scored twice in attack. Croatia called a time out when Tatsiana Seryk scored from the service line for 9-6. Captain Kavalchuk kept the lead at 11-7 and another time out for Croatia came at 13-8 for Belarus after a double block on Barun. Fabris hit back with an attack right after the break but Tatsiana Markevich gave first match point to Belarus with diagonal attack. Barysevich finishes the match 15-9 with a spike through the middle.
Russia x Ukraine 3-2 (25-18, 20-25, 25-23, 23-25, 15-13)
Russia started their quest for a third straight European title in the best way – as the team captained by Ekaterina Pankova rallied to a hard-fought 3-2 victory in the matchup with their neighbours from Ukraine. The 2013 and 2015 European champions had to work hard for their first victory in Baku as Ukraine put up a real fight – and the third set could have gone either way.
The spirited Ukrainian team caught a flying start to the match, playing bravely and without feeling any intimidation from the star-studded opponent standing on the other side of the net. Slowly but surely Russia found their rhythm, thus leading the way at both technical time-outs (8-5, 16-13), but Ukraine looked determined to put up a fight. The gold medallists from this year’s European League cut their deficit down to one point after the break before Russia’s well-oiled machine raised the quality of their performance to the next level, eventually claiming the opening set 25-18.
The course of the game did not change much early in the second set but a huge Ukrainian block on Nataliya Goncharova restored equality at 5-all. Ukraine eventually edged ahead at 10-9 before extending their advantage to three points at the second technical time-out, thus showing that they had not swept by chance eight matches in a row in their participation in this year’s European League. Anna Stepaniuk, Iryna Trushkina, Anastasiia Chernukha and team captain Nadiia Kodola joined forces to propel Ukraine to a rather surprising 25-20 win sealed by their rising star Stepaniuk.
Ukraine continued to play with much enthusiasm and energy also in the early stages of the third set, and Russia found it difficult to impose their physical prowess on such motivated opponent. However, halfway through the third set, Russia’s quality eventually came to the fore before Ukraine stormed back to contribute to a dramatic ‘money time’. Russia had their first set ball at 24-23, and Goncharova did not waste any such opportunity to double her team’s lead in the match.
Despite the boost of energy resulting from the ‘happy end’ of the previous set, Russia could not quite keep that same rhythm in the fourth one – with Ukraine rallying to an early 8-5 lead to stay alive in the game and re-lit their hopes of causing a major sensation at the same time. The respective superstars, Tatiana Kosheleva/Nataliya Goncharova for Russia and Nadiia Kodola/Anna Stepaniuk engaged in an exciting duel, with Russia drawing level at 14-all. Ukraine wasted a 19-17 advantage, Russia were two points way from victory at 23-all but Kodola & Co. stood strong to go for the tiebreak.
The Ukrainian sensation was about to materialise but Russia won a challenge on a block touch to turn a 4-6 deficit into 5-5 – and from there the reigning European champions scored three times in a row to move the charts to 8-5 at the side switch. However, the European League gold medallists fought their way back once again – with their rock-solid defence game being the name of the game as they clawed back to 9-9 – but Russia were the ones to celebrate in the end (15-13) after a match setting the tone for what promises to be a truly exciting European Championship.
Here are the post match reactions:
“We really had some good chances and were only a few points away from a sensational victory,” she said. “I think we showed that if we play our best game and do not make too many mistakes, and if we stick together as we did today, we can play some good Volleyball. This is what we just did against the reigning European champions and we obviously hope to repeat that same performance in the next matches with Turkey and Bulgaria.” Ukraine opposite Anastasiia Chernukha
“I do not think Russia underestimated us. Any match is just equally as important when you play at the European Championship, so I do not think it was a close match only because Russia did not play their best. Ukraine was able to play to the best of their abilities and as a result, this was an incredibly close game. We had our chances not only to win this game, but we especially had opportunities in the third set, which we eventually lost – if this had gone our way, the match could have developed differently too.” ” Ukraine coach Gariy Yegiazarov.
“This is my third European Championship, and even though I am a two-time gold medallist already, I am hungry for more and want to win a third title in a row. My father [renowned Volleyball coach Vadim Pankov] back home is closely following us and cheering us on, and I look forward to receiving his feedback after this game.”Russia captain Ekaterina Pankova
Serbia vs Czech Republic (3-0, 25-22, 25-26, 25-23)
The 2,000 plus in attendance got more and more into the match as the set grew on, clearly being led by a core group of Volleyball fans from the local area. Both teams exchanged points early on with Serbia starting to show their power through Brankica Mihajlovic. Leading by two at the first technical timeout everything reversed at the second with Czech Republic ahead 16-14. Something happened as the teams gathered, with Serbia siding out before Jovana Stevanovic served her team to be 20-16 up. The team ranked ranked 2nd in Europe maintained their lead and a crosscourt shot by Tijana Bošković took the set for her team 25-22.
In the 2nd set Czech Republic captain, Aneta Havlickova led her team out determined to come back after having many positives from the 1st set. This is their sixth successive appearance in the Final Round and they would need to call on that experience. A great rally at 1-0 was finished by again by Bošković and from there Serbia never looked back. Very quickly it was 6-2 for Serbia, then 11-4, 15-9, with the Czech team unable to reduce the deficit to less than six points. A close line challenge at 17-11 went the way of the Czechs, but this was not going to stop the Serbian team who strode to victory in the 2nd set 25-16.
Serbia came out determined to finish the match in three sets but the Czech team were having none of it. They kept the set close with it being a one point game at the first technical following a close challenge on a block touch. From here the Czech team pushed on and established a three-point lead at 11-8. Another two challenges went their way at 11-9 and soon it was evident that Coach Zdenek Pommer`s team were in control of the 3rd set (16-11). However, his opposite number Zoran Terzic rallied his troops and they fought back to level at 20-20. It went point for point through the twenties but in the end the Serbians were victorious 25-23, with top scorer Bošković getting 22 of their 75 points.
Here are the post match reactions:
“We did not have many problems except a period in the third set and we played very well. We need to raise the level of our game from match to match so that when it is needed the most and we are right. The match with the Netherlands is not crucial, we do not have to play it under “stress”, but I expect the side to give a lot more than in this encounter with the Czech Republic, with even more motive, the spirit of the game, and to win naturally.” Serbian Coach, Zoran Terzic
“In the second set we didn’t catch the beginning, but the other two sets were balanced. Even in the third set we have had a chance. We need to be stronger. We played in the field, but we weren’t able to prepare an excellent position for an attack. We have to learn. Tomorrow is the crucial match with Belgium.” Czech Republic Coach, Zdeněk Pommer
Netherlands vs Belgium (3-1, 23-25, 25-12, 25-21, 25-14)
The second match of the day was clearly one the fans had been waiting for, as mini Belgian and Dutch flags started to appear everywhere, particularly from some of the younger fans. Before the match Dutch Coach Jamie Morrison said “We are feeling great, as our team has been waiting for this moment for quite a while. When you get to a tournament you always have this 2 day waiting period where you are anxious to get onto the court and play for real. So we are looking forward to getting out there and playing hard.”
Despite this, Belgium took the early initiative dominating in many areas of the game. Their setter, Ilka Vyver, distributed the ball with ease challenging the Dutch block – who was without one of their best defensive weapons after Robin Kruijf injured her ankle in training the previous day. Despite having various leads, the Dutch would not go away, and it ended up close into the twenties after the Netherlands used their bench to force their way back into it. A video challenge at 23-22 proved that there was no touch off a Lonneke Slöetjes attack and Belgium went on to win 25-23 with Lise van Hecke wiping off the block on the last point.
The Netherlands started the second as if they had a point to prove with Anne Buijs, who came on in the first set, staying on particularly effective. The Yellow Tigers who were buoyant after the first set were quickly brought back down as they struggled to live with the Dutch, particularly at the nt. The score was as much as 16-8 at the second technical time-out and then 19-9 as they approached the twenties. The set finished with strong blocking from Yvon Belien and a 25-12 win. The third set mirrored the one previous in many ways, with the only exception in that Belgium came back into it at the end, taking the score from 16-9 to 25-21 to the Dutch.
The fourth set started with things a lot more tense, and the crowd enjoyed the show that was being put on from the teams ranked 6th (BEL) and 7th (NED) in Europe. However, the pattern set by the last two sets continued with every point the Belgians getting, the Dutch taking two. As the Dutch accelerated, so did their opposite Slöetjes who ended up being top scorer with 17 points. The match ended at a canter with the team from the Netherlands taking another comfortable set to 14 points.
Here are the post match reactions:
“It was a difficult match, we started a little bit nervous but I am really happy that we won. It is an important win for us and look forward to the next game tomorrow.” The Netherlands Setter, Laura Dijkema
“I think we started very well in the first set with a lot of enthusiasm and service pressure which made their reception very difficult. But of course, you need three sets like that at this level. The power and attacking strengths of the Netherlands proved to be decisive. From the time they got to the business in reception, we were taken away. Too bad we lost. We must, however, be positive. We won one set and tomorrow will follow the important match against the Czech Republic.” Belgium captain, Charlotte Leys
“We are a little disappointed of course. When we started the game we were all in but in the end a 3-1 loss is a very logical outcome. We played really well in the first set, but it is disappointing when you give it away yourselves. We started pressuring them less in serve and then made our own mistakes in reception and the game just shifts.” Valarie Courtois, Belgian Libero
“I am proud of my girls, it was a tough first set with a lot of nerves but we bounced back well.” When asked about her ankle she said it was “thick, but we will see how it goes. It is not very painful so that is good!” Injured Dutch Middle-Blocker, Robin de Kruif