2018 FIVB WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP – MEN’S EUROPEAN QUALIFIER
- May 23 to June 4
Pool D Final Standings
The battle for Pool D’s automatic bid to the World Championships came down to No. 14 Estonia and No. 3 Russia and rankings held despite a strong Estonian first set. The host team will now have to battle through the third round of European qualifying to vie for a Worlds berth.
In other Pool D action, Romania topped Hungary for its third straight win, while Montenegro downed newcomer Kosovo.
Russia 3, Estonia 1
Estonia and Russia battled it out for Pool D’s spot in the World Championships and in the end the Russian serve helped the favorites upset the home-standing Estonian side 21-25, 25-21, 25-18, 25-19.
Russia served up 10 aces in the match including a few decisive ones at the end of Set 2. The Russians also were aided by a 57 percent hitting efficiency and 12 blocks.
In addition to the serve, the Russians changes setters from starter Sergey Grankin to Dmitry Kovalev in Set 2 and swapped out Dmitrii Volkov for Yury Berezhko, both of which had a major impact on the match.
“It worked in our favour that we have so many equally strong players,” Russian head coach Sergey Shlyapnikov said. “Still at the beginning of the match we were too tense, Estonia had a superb serve and a raucous support from their fans. The end of the second set was very important considering the outcome of the match and in the third and fourth sets our players were more relaxed.”
Russia cruised to a 13-9 lead in Set 1, but Estonia battled back to take a 17-16 lead. Oliver Venno went to the service line and helped push Estonia up 24-20 and on to the 25-21 victory. Estonia boasted a 21-18 lead in Set 2, but Maksim Zhigalov came to the service line with Russia trailing 21-20 and served up three aces to lift the visitors to a 25-21 win.
“His serves were truly decisive,” Estonia outside hitter Robert Taht said. “With that, we let Russia get back their confidence and in the third and fourth sets there were moments where the difference in power between the two teams was evident.”
Russia led nearly throughout in Set 3 and 4 en route to the win and the World Championships berth.
Maxim Mikhailov led all hitters with 19 points, including 15 kills, two blocks and two aces. Egor Kliuka added 13 points, including 10 kills and two aces. Volkov managed nine points, with seven kills and two blocks, after coming in as a substitute.
Ardo Kreek (13), Taht (12) and Andrus Raadik (11) led Estonia in the match. Kreek put up five blocks, while Taht and Raadik managed 10 kills apiece.
Romania 3, Hungary 0
Romania ended its stay at the European qualifiers with a three-match win streak, concluding with a sweep of Hungary on Sunday. Romania won the match 25-19, 26-24, 27-25.
Romania led Set 1 from wire to wire, but faced a tougher test from the Hungarians in Sets 2 and 3. Romania led 8-4 in Set 2 only to see the advantage slip away as Hungary rallied to leads at 16-15 and 21-20. The Romanians righted the ship, however, to steal back the 26-24 win despite being outhit 48 percent to 38 in the stanza. Hungary led 8-5 early in Set 3, but Romania boasted a slight 16-15 edge at the midway point before hanging on for the 27-25 win and the sweep.
Romania outblocked Hungary 13-6 and outserved their opponent 4-2, while hitting at a 55 percent clip for the match.
“We served better and our attitude was also superior,” Romanian captain Laurentiu Lica said. “We were in a better mood, so to speak. However, if we look ahead, Hungary has three, four very promising young players. We got better with each game, against Estonia and Russia we could not do much but after that we raised the level of our performance. Still, one thing we really have to learn is to be careful and to respect our opponent.”
Marian Iulian Bala managed a match-high 17 points with 13 kills, three blocks and an ace. Lica tallied 15 points, including three stuffs, while Robert Adrian Aciobanitei and Nicolae Gabriel Ghionea added 11 and 10 points respectively.
Hungary got 16 points from Krisztian Padar, all on kills, while Szanolcs Nemeth added 10 points with seven kills and two aces.
“We were not at the same level in terms of aggressiveness than in the previous matches,” Hungary coach Juan Manuel Barrial said. “We tried to fight with them, especially in the second and third sets but they closed the sets better.”
Montenegro 3, Kosovo 0
Montenegro made short work of Kosovo, registering a 25-15, 25-9, 25-15 sweep in just 58 minutes.
Montenegro put up 13 blocks, while allowing none and also held Kosovo without an ace in the victory. The victors also managed a 56 percent hitting efficiency, committing just seven errors.
Marko Bojic, Luka Babic and Ivan Jecmenica registered 13 points apiece to pace Montenegro. Bojic tallied 10 kills, while Babic and Jecmenica added eight each. Babic managed a team-best five blocks, while Jecmenica chipped in four stuffs.
“We started our preparations a bit late, some our players came back from injuries and some ended their club season as early as in February,” Montenegro head coach Veljko Basić said. “We had a very good game against Russia and the match with Estonia was also very, very close but in the last two games we were very tired.”
Hajdaraj Bardhyl scored 12 points, with a match-high 12 kills, to lead Kosovo.
“This tournament was a very good experience for us,” Kosovo captain Valon Nikqi said. “Physically we were not very good because our preparation lasted only ten days and as a result, our game swayed a lot. Sometimes we played really well, sometimes really bad.”