2018 FIVB WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP – MEN’S EUROPEAN QUALIFIER
- May 23 to June 4
Pool D in EST
Everything pointed to a final showdown between No. 3 Russia and host No. 14 Estonia for the top spot in Pool D and Russia’s sweep of Kosovo and Estonia’s four set win over Hungary has set the stage for just that on Sunday. Romania also topped Montenegro in Saturday’s action.
Romania 3, Montenegro 1
Montenegro did everything it could to down Romania, hitting 51 percent and putting up 11 blocks, but Romania answered with a 56 percent hitting efficiency and 11 blocks to snag the 25-23, 21-25, 25-21, 25-21 victory.
“We really wanted to win this game,” Romanian outside hitter Marian Uilian Bala said. “We knew that we are in the same level as Montenegro, and we are familiar with some of their players who have been playing in our national league. In the end, we were a little bit better in block and service, also our transition game worked better than before in this tournament.”
Bala led the Romanian attack with 20 points, including 17 kills and two blocks. Laurentie Lica (16), Robert Adrian Aciobanitei (13) and Nicolae Gabriel Ghionea (12) also added double-digit point tallies. Ghionea put up a team-best four blocks and hit at a 70 percent efficiency with seven kills.
“Today it was a difficult game for us,” Montenegro captain Vojin Cacic said. “We gave everything in the previous three matches and we didn’t have much power left in our tanks but we hope to finish the tournament on a positive note tomorrow.”
Cacic led Montenegro with 11 points, including 10 points. Bozidar Cuk added 10 points, including seven kills and two aces.
Estonia 3, Hungary 1
Estonia got the two sets it needed to ensure at least second place in the group, but it took bouncing back from a first set loss to do so. Hungary led the first set from start to finish, but Estonia came through where it mattered, stealing away Set 3 late and leading Sets 2 and 4 pretty much throughout to seal the win.
“In the first set our game was a little bit rusty,” Estonia outside hitter Andrus Raadik said. “Maybe we were a little bit hobbled by the fact that we knew what we had to do to secure second place. But from the second set our game started to flow.”
Estonia hit 64 percent in the match led by Timo Tammemaa’s perfect 9-for-9 effort. Seven blocks and seven aces aided in the victory.
Oliver Venno tallied a match-high 20 points, with 14 kills and a team-leading five aces. Robert Taht added 16 points, Raadik chipped in 14 and Tammemaa registered 12, including three blocks.
“We have achieved our first goal what was to take at least second place but it didn’t come easily,” Estonia captain Kert Toobal. “In the first set Hungary played really well and yesterday Montenegro was strong throughout the match too.”
Hungary was led by Krisztian Padar’s 19 points. Roland Gergye added 17. Both tallied a match-high 16 kills.
Russia 3, Kosovo 0
Russia took just 55 minutes to squash any hopes of a Kosovo upset in a 25-8, 25-8, 25-9 win, thanks to a 76 percent hitting efficiency and 11 aces.
“We all knew who was going to win this match because Russia is one of the best teams in the world,” Kosovo team captain Valon Nikqi said. “Nevertheless, it was a huge experience for us to play against them.”
Russia jumped ahead 8-3 in Set 1 and 8-1 in the second two stanzas and never looked back.
Maksim Zhigalov put down 17 points with a match-high 13 kills, two blocks and two aces. Dmitrii Volkov and Yury Berezhko added 12 and 11 respectively. Volkov served up four aces, while Berezhko added three.
Hajdaraj Bardhyl managed four points to lead Kosovo.
Russia was able to seize Kosovo with a big hand and rolled up a big scorehttps://t.co/R2Ols9QzEK pic.twitter.com/HKAzBRpc72
— VOLLEYRUSSIA (@russiavolley) May 28, 2017