Italy And Serbia Advance To Quarterfinals – EuroVolley Day 3 Recap

  0 Liam Smith | September 24th, 2017 | European volleyball, International Volleyball, News


Title favorites Italy and Serbia secured an early spot on the tournament’s quarterfinals. Italy will face the winner of the playoff game that will pit The Netherlands vs Croatia. The Dutch will be the favorites against the Croatian squad, which means we will possibly have one of the hottest games in the tournament, Italy vs The Netherlands, very early into the playoffs. Serbia will go against the winner of Belarus and The Czech Republic.

Meawhile, hosts Azerbaijan continued its impressive run with a straight victory against Hungary. They now have two wins with zero sets lost. Georgia, the other tournament host, didn’t have the same luck, as they were eliminated from the competition, but not after taking one set from the historic three matches they contested on home soil in Tbilisi. Hungary and Belgium also packed their bags from the tournament, as they got sent home early. Tomorrow, Ukraine and Turkey will decide the last available playoff spot, with the Turkish side being the heavy favorites.

Below, you’ll find updated pools and complete CEV recaps from all of the day’s action:

Pool A

Pos Team Pld W L Pts SW SL SR SPW SPL SPR Qualification
1  Azerbaijan (H, A) 2 2 0 6 6 0 150 111 1.351 Quarterfinals
2  Poland (Q) 3 2 1 5 6 6 1.000 258 250 1.032 Playoffs
3  Germany (A) 2 1 1 4 5 4 1.250 187 191 0.979
4  Hungary (E) 3 0 3 0 2 9 0.222 220 263 0.837

Azerbaijan vs. Poland 3-0 (25-14, 25-21, 25-23)

Azerbaijan had enjoyed the privilege of a short break following their successful debut on Friday late afternoon where they made up for a slow start to rout Hungary in three sets – whereas Poland had played nine sets in their previous two matches with Germany and Hungary, these resulting in two victories for the White-and-Reds. Playing under the eyes of State President Ilham Aliyev, who on Sunday paid a second visit to the 2017 women’s EuroVolley, Azerbaijan stormed to a thunderous 25-14 win in the opening set of their matchup with Poland, much to the delight of an almost sell-out crowd.

The second set was a much different story with Poland fighting for every point and keeping the score close until the second technical timeout (16-14). At this stage, Azerbaijan found more consistency in their game, producing an impressive run (22-16) with Polina Rahimova and Natalya Mammadova being their main assets. Poland put up a fight (23-20) but Rahimova secured four set points for the home side – and she was responsible for sealing Azerbaijan’s 25-21 win to double the hosts’ lead in the match.

In a sort of ‘crescendo’, the match grew in intensity and quality in the third set – where Poland edged ahead a few times and had a little advantage towards the end (23-21) before Azerbaijan’s comeback sparked much enthusiasm among the crowd in attendance. The hosts scored four points in a row and the match eventually ended in a 3-0 victory for the home side – the second such score line in as many matches as they had produced the same result in their opening game with Hungary on Friday.

Here are the post match reactions:

“It is a great start for us – with two wins in two matches. Poland have a very strong team but we celebrated a victory in three sets. The third set was very difficult for us, but towards the end, we eventually played without making mistakes. Now our team is entirely focused on the last match of the group stage against Germany.” Valeriya Mammadova, libero of Azerbaijan

“We played such an emotional match. Sometimes I felt like our team was flying on the court. The third set was much closer, but we continued to fight and eventually celebrated a well-deserved victory. Poland have a good block and our team played clean in defence and we fought for our chances as much as we could in attack too.” Polina Rahimova, opposite of Azerbaijan

“We did not play our game at all in those first two sets. Malwina Smarzek was hauling us with her spiking, but we could not join her. When each one of us combined their effort in set three, the result was much closer. If the referee’s last decision had gone the other way, it could have been a much different game, as pressure was visibly mounting on Azerbaijan’s players. It has also been the first time for us to face a team whose outside spikers are two meters tall. You know what to do in theory, but without meeting this kind of opposition on a regular basis, it is very difficult. However, that third set showed that it was doable.” Martyna Grajber, player of Poland

“I think that we did not start that bad – up until the first time-out it did not look bad at all, but later on we couldn’t stop Rahimova nor Mammadova, while Poznyak was also doing a good job. With an opponent like that, you have to take a lot more risks with the serve and get a little “crazy” with your attack. Our girls do not often face the kind of serve we saw in the second set, when a jump-served ball was flying at 100km/h or faster. Our chance came in the third set but unfortunately, we lacked that bit of that “crazy” I was talking about.” Jacek Nawrocki, coach of Poland

Germany vs. Hungary 3-1 (25-21, 19-25, 25-21, 25-18)

The last match of the day in Baku was pretty much a do-or-die bout for both Germany and Hungary, as they were still vying for their first victory in the tournament. Germany could rely on their solid teamwork – with a substantial share of their roster and staring line up having played together in Schwerin this past season – to compensate for the lack of major stars, but Hungary responded with much of a collective effort as well. The first set was a close affair, with Germany showing more consistency in a number of key rallies to secure a 25-21 win.

As they were making their second consecutive appearance in a #EuroVolleyW Final Round before they co-host the 2019 edition together with Turkey, Poland and the Czech Republic, Hungary looked determined to put up a fight to stay ‘alive’ in the competition. They very much did that, with Bernadett Dekany and team captain Rita Liliom helping secure an early 8-4 lead in the second set – something they were able to hold on as they eventually cruised to a 25-19 set win.

Hungary took that momentum into set three where they initially set the tempo of the game (8-5) before Germany fought back and eventually doubled their lead in the match (25-21) as the fight for ‘survival’ in the tournament was taken to the next level of intensity. Germany’s rhythm grew with the game and the ‘Butterflies’ comfortably sailed towards their first victory in the tournament – with it sending Hungary home and securing their qualification to the Playoffs before taking on hosts Azerbaijan in their last match in the pool.

Here are the post match reactions:

“It was a very tough match. That second set was really unnecessary for us, but I am proud of how my team came back in the third one. We knew that Hungary would play a lot of shorts and that their outside hitter Greta Szakmary is very strong – we could have played a little better with our block in that part but in the end I’m just happy that we are in the next round. Azerbaijan will be a super hard game, with them playing at home and having such giant players. We are a very young team but we’ll fight with courage and we might find our luck, as it will also be very difficult in the next phase, with teams like Russia, Turkey and Bulgaria.” Louisa Lippmann, opposite hitter of Germany and her team’s top scorer of the match with 19 points:

“As for the next match with Azerbaijan, we have to acknowledge that we somehow play at different levels – but we will be trying to put up a fight and to play as clever as we can. If we only try to play and hit hard, that is most likely not to work, so we have to find some other solutions in order to be competitive in that game as well.” Felix Koslowski, head coach of Germany:

“We are satisfied with the fact that we started each of these three games very well, but unhappy with how we couldn’t close the sets when we wanted, despite being ahead in points. I think we showed good concentration in the beginning of each set and I am proud of the team and of getting here, because this was a long summer while our list of players was short. On the other hand, we very much wanted to bring at least one win from here and our biggest chance was tonight, so we are disappointed that we could not make it happen. The tournament is great. We love the European Championship and we want to stay around for a long time.” Rita Liliom, team captain of Hungary:

“I think we grew with each match. We gave all we could give at this moment. Of course, our roster was small and we lacked experience; obviously, I cannot say anything bad about my team because they worked very hard this summer and we achieved a very good result by winning the World Grand Prix Group 3. We are sad that our adventure here ends today but I think we earned respect in this competition because even if we lost three matches, we showed good Volleyball, we played well organised and we fought all the way. Of course we have our limitations and we pay the price for that.” Alberto Salomoni, coach of Hungary:

Pool B

Pos Team Pld W L Pts SW SL SR SPW SPL SPR Qualification
1  Italy (Q) 3 3 0 8 9 3 3.000 264 232 1.138 Quarterfinals
2  Belarus (Q) 3 2 1 5 7 5 1.400 254 226 1.124 Playoffs
3  Croatia (Q) 3 1 2 5 7 7 1.000 303 257 1.179
4  Georgia (H, E) 3 0 3 0 1 9 0.111 142 248 0.573

Georgia vs. Belarus 0-3 (8-25, 11-25, 12-25)

Nadzeya Smirnova wasted no time, putting pressure on Georgia from the service line and giving her team opportunities for offensive play to go 4-1 ahead. Belarus forced the hosts to make further mistakes, before boasting an 8-3 lead at the first technical timeout. Georgia called a timeout when the gap grew to 10-3. Tatsiana Markevich spiked through the block for 12-4 and Mariam Gaprindashvili responded with a similar action, giving Georgia their 5th point. Belarus consistently extended the lead to 16-6 at the second technical timeout. Georgia coach Paata Ulumbelashvili called a timeout at 22-8, when his team found it difficult to receive Anastasiya Harelik’s serve. A double block on Ann Kalandadze gave Belarus their first set point and the team used their first chance, claiming the set at a canter (25-8).

Georgia reacted, keeping the score closer than in the previous set with a tie at 3-3, but a block on Svetlana Sosnovskaya put Belarus 6-4 ahead. Belarus followed with another block, this time stopping Kalandadze, extending their lead to 8-4 at the first technical timeout. That was only the beginning of their reign in the second set, as the advantage shortly grew to 11-5 and 18-9. Georgia kept motivating each other after Gvantsa Ulumbelashvili scored their 10th point with a diagonal attack. Two ace serves by Markevich made it 22-10 and she remained on the service line until Belarus had their first set point at 24-10. The set finished at 25-11 after a spike by Anzhelika Barysevich.

Belarus kept the momentum, opening the third set with an 8-3 lead at the first technical timeout. Their concentration remained on point as they kept pushing the hosting team in all elements and jumped to 16-7 in no time. Despite taking a break at 20-9, Georgia did not manage to improve their performance. A double block on Ana Batsatsashvili made it 22-9 for Belarus. Irina Chelidze spiked for point no. 12 for Georgia, but a tip over the block gave Belarus a match point in the next action. Chelidze spiked long, giving Belarus a straight set victory at 25-12.

Here are the post match reactions:

“Our plan was to win as many matches as possible to go to Baku. Now, in the next phase the plan will be the same. We will fight for each match and do our best.” Belarus coach, Piotr Khilko

“We achieved almost everything we were planning in this phase of the competition with the exception of the two first sets against Croatia. We tried to do our best here and the story will be the same in Baku.” Belarus captain, Aksana Kavalchuk

Croatia v. Italy 2-3 (23-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-10, 11-15)

Croatia began with a slight lead, soon tied by Cristina Chirichella’s attack at 4-4. Paola Egonu took Italy ahead at 6-5, but Croatia bounced back to lead 8-7 at the first technical timeout. The gap increased to 9-7 and was maintained further, when Bernarda Cutuk spiked at 12-10. An ace serve by Valentina Tirozzi tied the score at 12-12, but Croatia continued their offensive play, led by Katarina Barun and Samanta Fabris and took their advantage to 16-12 at a second technical timeout. Italy worked their way back to one point behind at 17-16, forcing Croatia to call a timeout. Italy went 19-18 ahead after a double block by Raphaela Folie and Egonu. Their advantage jumped to 23-20 after an impressive performance in defence by Beatrice Parrocchiale and a diagonal attack by Egonu, but the team struggled to finish two of their set points. After a single block of Barun on Caterina Bosetti at 24-23, Italy called a timeout. Egonu finished the set at 25-23 with yet another powerful hit.

An ace serve by Barun gave Croatia a 2-1 lead in the second set, but the score was tied at 3-3 after an exchange of blocks between the two teams. The game continued point by point until Italy went 8-6 ahead at the first technical timeout. Bosetti spiked off the block to make it 11-8 and the advantage soon increased to 16-11 after a tip over the block by Egonu. Croatia came close to 17-16, but a spike by Egonu and a long hit by Barun allowed Italy to stay 19-16 ahead. Italy controlled the rest of the set and a spike by Bosetti finished it at 25-21.

Croatia responded with a lead at the beginning of the third set when a ball jumped on the net ending as an ace serve by Cutuk, followed by a tip from Fabris, making it 7-3. Italy bounced back to 7-6, but Croatia remained ahead at the first technical timeout, 8-6. An ace serve by Beta Dumancic kept Croatia 11-9 ahead, but Chirichella and Egonu tied it at 11-11 with two powerful spikes. The second technical timeout arrived with 16-14 for Croatia after an ace serve by Cutuk and a spike by Barun. Three more points scored by Croatia with Ana Grbac troubling Italy from the service line moved the score to 19-14. The five-point lead was kept until 22-17 and Croatia had a first set point after a long spike by Bosetti at 24-18. Fabris spiked from the back row, eventually taking the set for Croatia at 25-19.

The fourth set opened with the same score and Croatia’s lead at 7-3. The four-point advantage was kept at the first technical timeout (8-4) and further extended to 11-5 after a block on Tirozzi and an ace serve by Fabris. Italy called a timeout when the scoreboard showed 14-6 for Croatia. A block on Egonu increased the gap to 16-6 at the second technical timeout. Croatia’s streak was eventually broken at 18-7, but another series moved the score from 19-8 to 24-8. Two spikes by Egonu gave Italy a 9th and 10th point, but a long serve by Sara Loda sealed a Croatian set win at 25-10.

Barun and Egonu exchanged strong hits for 1-1 in the tie-break, but Egonu’s good performance put Italy 4-1 ahead soon after. Their lead melted slightly, but Tirozzi kept it at 6-4 with a tip over the block. The side switch came at 8-5 for Italy after an ace serve by Chirichella and Egonu followed with an overkill for 10-6, forcing Croatia to call a timeout. Barun gave Croatia their 7th point with a spike, but a double block on Matea Ikic kept Italy with a four-point lead (11-7). A timeout called by Italy slowed down Croatia who had closed in at 11-9. Egonu spiked for 12-9 and a first match point came after a long attack by Grbac at 14-9. Italy failed to cash their first two match points, but an attack by Tirozzi finished it all off in the next action, 15-11.

Here are the post match reactions:

“We are glad we have three days to prepare for the quarterfinals. We have to improve our level during that time, as we are making a lot of mistakes at the moment. We have to improve our service as we haven’t shown our usual level in this element so far. If we improve it, then everything will follow.” Italy outside-spiker, Caterina Bosetti

“I would like to ask CEV to reject my proposal in regards to shortening matches to only two sets. I am really satisfied with the performance that we showed this evening. We are looking forward to the next round and I believe we will be playing The Netherlands on Tuesday. When it comes to focusing and specific elements ahead of facing the next opponent it is always about the same thing – serving and reception. If we can perform well in those particular elements, then we have good chances. We showed that today against Italy. The moment we stabilised our reception, we had a good attack. And we have a couple of players with good attack, so we have our chances against The Netherlands.” Croatia coach, Igor Lovrinov

Pool C

Pos Team Pld W L Pts SW SL SR SPW SPL SPR Qualification
1  Russia (A) 2 2 0 5 6 3 2.000 203 195 1.041 Quarterfinals
2  Bulgaria (A) 2 2 0 4 6 4 1.500 209 189 1.106 Playoffs
3  Ukraine 2 0 2 2 4 6 0.667 192 217 0.885
4  Turkey 2 0 2 1 3 6 0.500 192 195 0.985

Bulgaria vs. Turkey 3-2 (25–17, 10–25, 25–16, 20–25, 20–18)

Bulgaria and Turkey added another chapter to their rivalry in women’s Volleyball as they opened the programme of the third competition day in Baku. Bulgaria have been a force to reckon with since the early days of the European Championship – and they boast a gold medal from the 1981 edition they hosted – whereas Turkey are chasing in Azerbaijan their third #EuroVolleyW medal to go with silver and bronze they won in 2003 and 2011, respectively.

Turkey were also vying for their first victory in the pool following Saturday night’s loss to Russia and they took to the court determined to achieve their goal, claiming an early 10-5 lead, before Bulgaria fought their way back to edge ahead at the second technical timeout (16-15). Since facing that 5-10 deficit, the ‘Lionesses’ stamped a positive 14-5 run to change the course of the game. At this stage, Turkey coach Giovanni Guidetti replaced Neriman Gencyürek with the MVP of this year’s U23 World Championship, Hande Baladin, but to no avail – as Bulgaria scored another three points in a row to move the score to 22-15 before Strashimira Simeonova finished it off 25-17.

Turkey lacked a strong opposite hitter with both Meryem Boz and Polen Uslupehlivan not able to deliver with the consistency of their long-time star player Neslihan Demir but they fought back to lead 10-4 early in the second set. Bulgaria could not recover from this early blow and trailed by as many as 12 points at 20-8. The final stages of the set were filled with long, exciting rallies – but Turkey’s dominance was obvious and resulted in a landslide 25-10 win.

In a rollercoaster of a game, Bulgaria bounced back from such a heavy loss to impose their rule in a one-sided third set (25-16) where Turkey coach Giovanni Guidetti even replaced their star setter Naz Aydemir with Gamze Alikaya in an effort to stabilise his team’s game – but without success. Dobriana Rabadzhieva, Elitsa Vasileva and Emiliya Dimitrova all contributed to Bulgaria’s effort to double their lead in the match and they put up a fight in the early stages of the fourth set as well where they made up for an early deficit to restore equality at 7-7.

The Azerbaijani crowd were openly rooting for Turkey and the ‘Sultans of the Net’ paid back the support they were receiving with a valiant effort resulting in a compelling 15-8 advantage. Bulgaria did not make it easy at all for the Turks – but Guidetti’s side had a lot more quality and consistency, especially in defence, and Neriman sealed the 25-20 that called for another tiebreaker at National Gymnastics Arena.

After so many turnarounds, one could only expect the fifth set would be an extremely close affair – and Turkey made it clear they were going to fight through to the end as they turned a 3-6 deficit into an 8-7 lead at the side switch. The close battle that everyone had been longing for since the beginning of the match was finally there – and Turkey had taken on this challenge with almost only the second lines compared to the initial roster. Emiliya Dimitrova cancelled a Turkish match ball for 14-all and only a few seconds later Bulgaria had one of their own. Neriman responded in style with a thunderous pipe attack and the drama continued until Rabadzhieva cashed Bulgaria’s fourth match point at 20-18.

Here are the post match reactions:

“It was a fantastic match. After edging Ukraine yesterday, we prepared for the matchup with Turkey. We played Turkey at the World Championship qualifications earlier this season and we ended up losing 2-3. However, we took our revenge today. Our group is very interesting – all teams are playing at the same level and the matches are extremely exciting. My team has been playing very well. In the past three editions of the European Championships, we did not achieve any good results but we want to change this negative trend in Baku. For some of my players it is their last chance to show high-quality Volleyball in a major tournament.” Ivan Dimitrov, head coach of Bulgaria

Pool D

Pos Team Pld W L Pts SW SL SR SPW SPL SPR Qualification
1  Serbia (Q) 3 3 0 9 9 1 9.000 253 217 1.166 Quarterfinals
2  Netherlands (Q) 3 2 1 6 6 5 1.200 261 234 1.115 Playoffs
3  Czech Republic (Q) 3 1 2 3 4 7 0.571 241 264 0.913
4  Belgium (E) 3 0 3 0 3 9 0.333 254 294 0.864

Belgium vs Serbia 1-3 (26-24, 20-25, 22-25, 21-25)

From the start it was clear that the pressure on the Belgian team was more than that on Serbia. All Serbia needed to secure top spot in the pool was win two sets, while Belgium needed a 3-0 or 3-1 victory to stand any chance of getting through to the knock-out stage of the competition in Baku. Before the match we caught up with the Serbian Coach, Zoran Terzic.

The game started slowly with the score line dancing around being level, until Serbia pulled ahead 15-12. This margin remained through to the twenties with a fair few serving errors. Belgium got back within a point at 22-23 after a Laura Heyrman slide attack. The score was tied at 24-all after an ace from Belgian setter Ilka Vyver. Then to the surprise of many Tijana Boskovic was blocked from backcourt and it was recycled before outside hitter Brankica Mihajlovic went long. With their first set point, Belgium erected a three-woman block on a defensive overpass and there was no way through for Serbia and to their clear delight Belgium won the 1st set 26-24.

The second set went the way of Serbia, this is after all a team with four of the team that started the Olympic Gold Medal match a little over a year ago. With a 19-15 lead, Serbia were in control of the set and they pushed on to take it 25-20 in 31 minutes and level the match.

The third set started well for Belgium, although it had to as a 3-2 win only brings two ranking points and they needed three to have any chance of being on the court in Baku later this week. They led 8-3 at the first technical time-out and then 12-7. But Serbian Coach Zoran Terzic used his reserve players and they made an impressive impact, showing their squad strength and depth. They pulled it back to 14-13 and even led 20-17. From here though the moment appeared to get the better of the Yellow Tigers and an ace secured the third set for Serbia and with it the fate of the two teams.

With 1st secured for Serbia and 4th confirmed for Belgium, they were playing for pride. With the substitute players who had done so well in the 3rd set staying on, Belgium raced to a significant lead (4-0), but back came Serbia again and their lead grew until the set finish. 25-21 the final set score and 3-1.

Here are the post match reactions:

“Belgium are a very good team and never give up. It is always very interesting to play against them. I am happy that we made this group finish in the best possible way. Now we have some days off with no games and we expect another tough match in the quarter-finals and although we do not know who we are going to play, all our thoughts and focus are now on that.” Brankica Mihajlovic of Serbia

“We are disappointed. We played actually a good game serving very well in the first set and then they started to play with some different players and we were thinking there was still a chance. So it is a pity that we could not finish the game. Yesterday was the main game for us and we lost it in a bad way so it is a disappointing European Championship for us.” Lise Hecke, opposite hitter of Belgium

“We played very well, after yesterday and the big disappointment. My team showed their high spirits. There were a lot of mistakes from Serbia so they chose more security in their play. I cannot be disappointed about the first two sets, and then we had 8-4 and 14-9 so there was a little bit of hope but then we made too many mistakes. However it is important to leave this tournament this way and we showed that we were deserving to play the second round – but we did not show that yesterday when it was needed.” Gert Broek, Coach of Belgium

Czech Republic vs the Netherlands 1-3 (21-25, 15-25, 25-21, 22-25)

The second match started with most of the pressure being relieved after the previous match result. Now they were just playing for 2nd and 3rd place in the pool, where they will cross with Pool B in Baku on Tuesday in the Play-offs.

The first set started closely before the Dutch built a lead in the middle of the set, but back came Czech Republic to level around the second technical timeout. This spurred the Dutch on again as they accelerated to take the first set 25-21 with a crosscourt winner from their captain and leader Maret Grothues.

The second began with the team from the Netherlands commanding the net play again, with their middle blockers popping up everywhere. Quickly their lead grew to five points (11-6), and then again to 16-7 at the second technical. From here the Dutch were in control and ran out winners by 10 points (25-15).

The third set saw a complete reversal to the previous ones, with it being the Czech team who led for the majority. Having changed their setter, bringing in Katerina Valkova, the game seemed to come much easier for the team that trailed. By the time it got to the second technical time-out they had a slender lead of 16-14. This then grew to 20-16 with more and more going the way of the Czech Republic. The set finished 25-21 with the Dutch looking to compose themselves for a crucial fourth set.

Having not yet had a five-set match at Göygöl Olympic Sport Complex, it was obvious the crowd were caught between supporting their favourite team in the Netherlands, and cheering for the Czech Republic to get a 5th set. Continuing where they left off in the 3rd set, it was the need chasing a 5th set that had the edge. A mixture of tougher serving and some miscommunication in the service reception caused the Dutch problems that they were not used to. With the score at 19-14 to Czech Republic, it appeared to be set over until a comeback from the team in Orange brought it to 19-19 with Celeste Plak particularly impressive in attack and defence. Challenge at 20-20 with the ball landing marginally in seemed to take some of the momentum out of the Czech side. A short while later that it seemed fitting that Plak attacked with the winning shot to take the set 25-22.

Here are the post match reactions:

 “I think we played the first two sets really well. We were dominating but they came back and had a really good service pressure. We became a little bit sloppy but at the end you can see that we have a lot of power and have a squad with a lot of good players. Today Femke Stoltenborg and Celeste Plak did a really good job and it is good that you do not only play with six or seven players but with the whole team.” Netherlands captain Maret Grothues

“I think we responded well after losing the first two sets. We fought until the end and it was really a pity that we did not make it to the tie-break. We were really close but small details decided it in the end. However we are really excited to be going to Baku to play, rather than to fly home.” Czech Republic middle-blocker Barbora Purchartova

“We did not start the match so well, but soon after all 14 players played really well and we played as a team today.” Coach Zdenek Pommer of the Czech Republic

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