Netherlands and Belarus on to Quarterfinals. EuroVolley Playoffs Recap

  0 Liam Smith | September 26th, 2017 | European volleyball, International Volleyball, News


Just like we predicted, the first day of EuroVolley playoffs was action packed.  To expand on a remarkable volleyball year that saw them write a compelling Cinderella story in the FIVB Girls’ U18 World Championship, Belarus secured a spot in Europe’s top eight with today’s epic come from behind win against the Czech Republic. A feat even more impressive, considering their opponents were only two points away from securing a 3-0 win in the third set. They will now go on to face current Olympic silver medalists Serbia in their quarterfinals match-up.

Meanwhile, current tournament silver medalists Netherlands stormed to a 3-0 victory over Croatia to secure a spot in the quarterfinals, where they will be playing Italy in what promises to be a fantastic match. Having such two strong teams, both title favorites, go head to head in an elimination match so early into the playoffs is both bittersweet and exciting to fans all over the world. It’s just too bad that one of them will have to go home early.

Below, you’ll find complete CEV Recaps from today’s two playoff games:

Netherlands vs. Croatia 3–0 (25–18, 25–8, 25–21)

The Netherlands were the heavy favorites going into this match – and even though Croatia put up a fight in the opening set, the ‘Oranjes’ simply had too much quality and depth to offer on their roster to feel some kind of a threat. At times, the outsiders from Croatia succeeded in finding their game and the opening set was a relatively close one, even though the Netherlands eventually emerged victorious at 25-18. As for the second set, this was pretty much a show of strength by the Dutch players – who stormed to a terrific 25-8 win in no time to double their lead in the match and set their sights on a spot in the quarterfinals.

Croatia were still vying for a spot among the top eight in Europe – a feat they had achieved for the last time back in 2013, when they finished the tournament co-hosted by Germany and Switzerland in fifth place. They had no other option than to fight for every ball – and this is what they did from the early stages of the third set as they scored six straight points to prompt a Dutch time-out. This was some kind of a wake-up call for the Netherlands even though they still trailed by five points at the first technical break.

Their almost too dominant performance from the second set was probably the reason for this drop of concentration – but they found their way back into the game as they levelled the score at 13-all before trailing by two at the second technical time-out. Samanta Fabris and Katarina Barun set the pace for Croatia but the Netherlands eventually edged ahead at 21-20 on an ace by Celeste Plak. A block on Barun added another point to the Dutch tally and it was only a matter of time until eventual top scorer Anne Buijs sealed a 3-0 win for the ‘Oranjes’ (25-21).

Here are the post match reactions:

“I am happy with the way we played. We came out and, I think especially in the middle of the first set, we really got it going. That showed in the second set, which we dominated. Just like in the rest of this tournament, other teams are not going to quit against us, so the third set was more difficult and I was happy with the way we responded. There was no panic – it was a similar story to the rest of this tournament, like the Czech match and we learned a little bit from that experience, and took it back at them.” Jamie Morrison, head coach of the Netherlands:

“We got through the pool phase – not with the best Volleyball, but luckily it was good enough. Today against Croatia we played a decent match, we got a lot of attacking points and our serving was strong too. We should keep this level and take it as a standard, from which we can continue to rise – because if we want to continue in the competition, the teams will of course keep getting stronger – and so will we. So let’s see how we can develop in this tournament. I’m confident we can do it.” Celeste Plak, player of the Netherlands:

“Obviously the Dutch team was stronger than us and they fully deserved to win. There is not much that I can say about this game. The Netherlands played great Volleyball and I am looking forward to seeing their match with Italy in the next round. I am satisfied with my team’s performance at this tournament, especially since I have been with this group for two weeks only. We played a good tournament, maybe we missed some opportunities in the pool phase in Tbilisi but overall I can be satisfied.” Igor Lovrinov, coach of Croatia:

“I do not know what happened in the first set and the second set was like a black hole for us, it was really bad. However, I have to say that the Netherlands have an extremely good team and it was clear that we could not do so much against them. They played really fast, really good and they did so from the very beginning of the match. This is my first tournament at this level because I am very young – it will be my best memory because the first time is always the best.” Rene Sain, libero of Croatia

Belarus vs. Czech Republic 3–2 (18–25, 23–25, 27–25, 25–22, 17–15)

Belarus and the Czech Republic had travelled to Baku after finishing second and third respectively in their respective pools contested in Tbilisi and Ganja/Göygöl – and this meant they were taking for the first time to the court of the iconic National Gymnastics Arena in Azerbaijan’s capital.

The Czech Republic had progressed to the Playoff stage of the 2017 women’s EuroVolley following their fairly surprising victory over Belgium’s Yellow Tigers – and they seemed to have adjusted quite quickly to the conditions in Baku as they rallied to an early 12-7 lead. Their star players Helena Havelkova and Aneta Havlickova found much support from the younger members of the team (16-10) before Belarus responded with their top scorer in the tournament so far, 192cm tall middle blocker Anzhelika Barysevich, reducing the deficit down to three points (19-16). However, the Czechs fully controlled the final stages of the set – eventually securing a 25-18 win after Anastasiya Harelik of Belarus spiked out of bounds.

The match featured two teams representing two seasoned Volleyball schools – with the Czech Republic and Belarus inheriting quite much of the knowledge and tradition boasted by the former Czechoslovakia and Soviet Union and as a result, it inevitably turned into a close fight. The Czechs made up for a slow start to the second set (3-6) to claim a small edge after the first technical break (11-9). Mistakes were actually quite common throughout the set but the Czechs were able to show a little more consistency to double their lead in the match following a nice poke by Havelkova (25-23).

At this stage, Belarus were probably hoping they would repeat what they had done when coming back from two sets down to record a 3-2 victory over Croatia in their first match in Pool B back in Tbilisi. However, they soon trailed 1-3 in the third set and even though they put up a fight, the players coached by Piotr Khilko seemed to struggle to find their best game. The intensity and quality of the match did nevertheless grow with the time, especially since Belarus were with their back against the wall and had no other option than to fight back to stay alive in the competition. The Czechs claimed a small edge (19-17) following yet another mistake by Belarus but their opponents responded by scoring six in a row. Havlickova stopped that negative series to initiate a 3-0 run for her side – but Barysevich helped Belarus secure two set points. Havlickova scored the next couple of points to make it 24-all, before Belarus were successful at their third attempt to cut their deficit in the match (27-25).

The Czechs somehow felt the consequences of this setback as they chased Belarus for most of the fourth before coming back strong to lead 20-18 and 22-20, but Belarus always found a way to stay in contention – and eventually edged ahead with two consecutive aces by Nadzeya Malasai, before completing their comeback as Tatsiana Markevich spiked for 25-22.

Driven by the enthusiasm resulting from the previous set wins, Belarus opened the tiebreak with a 7-4 run and maintained a three-point advantage at the side switch. Still, Belarus were unable to capitalise on a 9-5 as the Czechs fought back to level the score at 10-all. Belarus claimed two match balls after winning a challenge on a spike by Barysevich, which the referee had called out, Andrea Kossanyiova cancelled the first one – and Havelkova did just the same with the second after a poor reception by Belarus. The players in red shirts regrouped and Markevich finished it all off at 17-15 to secure her team’s spot in the quarterfinals.

Here are the post match reactions:

“We are very happy since this is the first time in the history of the European Championship that Belarus have progressed to the quarterfinals. The team started badly against the Czech Republic, made quite some mistakes and as a result, I decided to change our tactics. Anastasiya Harelik moved to the opposite position and she played really well. She somehow turned into our ‘secret weapon’ but we have other surprises ready for the next opponent. Serbia await us in the quarterfinals and of course, our opponent is the favourite. However, if we play with courage, everything is possible.” Piotr Khilko, head coach of Belarus

“It was one of the most dramatic matches of my career. We fought for every ball. After losing two sets, our team had just one option – to win three in a row. We did it. I want to say thank you to all members of the team, to our coach and to the fans for their support. Now we start preparing for the match against Serbia and we want show our best Volleyball in the quarterfinals.” Volha Palcheuskaya, player of Belarus

“It is a big disappointment for me, since we started very well, but we could not keep it up. We did not push it enough. Even though we started badly in the fourth set, we made up for it in the middle part for a close finish and the tiebreaker is always an open case. We made some mistakes and the opponents had a chance to catch their breath and come back.” Zdenek Pommer, head coach of the Czech Republic

“I really do not know what happened in the third set. We had a bad start into set four, lost many points and were not lucky in the end while Belarus did their job and won the set. After that, they were leading all the time. We are very disappointed, especially as they were a playable opponent whom we won against many times.” Barbora Purchartova, player of the Czech Republic

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