Pila, Poland, August 14, 2003 - After a day off, the 2003 FIVB 8th Girls' Under 18 World Championship resumed on Wednesday with as many as six Play-off Round matches: in two only a seeding was at stake, but the other four saw battles for survival.
Among those who did not stay alive is Serbia and Montenegro. The bronze medallists of 2003 European Championships suffered a 3-2 defeat against the tournament's dark horse Thailand. The Asians overcame the Balkan team in five thrilling sets, in which the emotions were at their peak. "We are extremely happy because this is one of the best achievements in the history of Thailand's youth volleyball. We beat a very strong team, much taller than ours" said Chitipol Toomanee, the head coach of Thailand.
The other matches of the elimination group delivered few surprises although one was to happen in the very late clash between Italy and the Czech Republic. The Czech team, who found its way to this championship only because Germany gave up their qualification preferring not to participate, was involved in a very fierce fire exchange with the Italians. It all ended up around midnight, with a 3-2 victory to the Squadra Azzura (15-6 in the tiebreaker). The Czechs could not believe their fate and stayed for a long time on a court shedding many tears.
Earlier in the afternoon a crowd of 1,500 Polish fans had reason for a cheerful celebration as the home team advanced to the quaterfinals after overpowering Chinese Taipei 3-1. "We prepared ourselves excellently for this match," Polish head coach Mariusz Lobacz said. "Analyzing a video on the way Chinese Taipei is playing helped us a lot. My girls knew exactly what tactical solutions our opponents were going to choose."
Indeed, except for the third set, Poland's advantage was never in jeopardy. The players from Chinese Taipei usually could not break through with their attacks and the Poles gained as many as 20 points thanks to their blocking.
Earlier Brazil had beaten Croatia 3-2 and Russia overcame China by the same score
The United States also joined the final eight after a brief confrontation with Venezuela. An ambition to win at least a set for the Latin Americans did not eventuate. The US faced some resistance only in the third set and left the court victorious, 3-0.
"This was a very, very important win for USA volleyball," said head coach of the United States, Shelton Collier. "Earlier we had our most focused practice which really helped our performance in the match. The next three days we are going to play against the best young teams in the world."
USA's first assignment will be Russia in the quarter finals on Friday. The other quarterfinal matches see hosts Poland play against its third Asian team in this championship, China. Sensational Thailand faces the giant Brazil and there is also a repetition of the European Championships' final, when Croatia meets Italy.
Thursday is another day off before the quarterfinals take place on Friday.