ANKARA, ANTALYA, Turkey, September 24, 2003 - The German national women's team wrote Volleyball history on Wednesday when they defeated defending champions Russia during the Women's Senior European Championship in Ankara, Turkey. Thanks to a 3-0 (25-22, 27-25, 25-19) victory, Germany booked a place in the semifinals, while Russia face not reaching the semifinals of the European Championship for the first time.
The 17-time European Champion has always collected a medal at the European Championship but can now only reach fifth place.
Germany played a terrific match in the Ataturk Arena in the Turkish capital, continuing their excellent form in the tournament where they had already recorded three straight sets victories.
"I cannot describe my feelings," German captain Angelina Grun said. "We were already thrilled that we won the first three matches. Now we are in the semifinals having defeated Russia. It is really unbelievable."
The world No 9, needing a win over Russia to secure a semifinal spot, started the important clash extremely well, taking advantage of the absence of Russian captain Evguenia Artamonova, who couldn't play because of a back injury. After winning the first set, Germany was six points down in the second but some great serves from Judith Silvester brought the German team back in to the set and a block from middle blocker Olessya Kulakova, who was Germany's best scorer with 14 points, sealed the second set for the underdogs.
Germany clinched the third set and therefore the match with a comfortable six point margin, opening the door for a chance to grab one of the two qualifying spots for the 2003 World Cup in Japan in November, the first Olympic qualifying event, which are awarded to the first two place getters at the European Championship.
After going down to hosts Turkey on Monday, Russia, ranked No 1 in the world, now has the prospect of playing further qualification matches for the 2004 Olympics and the 2005 European Championship.
Turkey, meanwhile, joined Germany in the semifinals after beating Slovakia in straight sets (25-20, 25-20, 25-14) in front of more than 6,000 fans to join Germany at the top of Pool I. The two teams, who both are yet to drop a set, will decide the Pool winner when they meet on Thursday. In other Pool I action, Romania defeated Serbia & Montenegro 3-1 (25-11, 25-21, 23-25, 25-22).
In Pool II Italy became the new group leaders after handing Poland their first loss of the tournament, 3-1 (20-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-22), in Antalya. The 2002 World Champions only need to beat Bulgaria on Thursday to advance to the semifinals as Pool II winners.
In other results, the Netherlands booked its third victory of the Championship by defeating Bulgaria 3-1 (22-25, 25-23, 25-18, 26-24) while the Ukraine beat the Czech Republic 3-2 (25-21, 26-24, 22-25, 22-25, 15-7).
The preliminary pool play phase will conclude on Thursday before the semifinals and finals will be played in Ankara on Saturday and Sunday.
Not only are World Cup spots up for grabs but the first six ranked teams will qualify for the European Olympic Qualification tournament, which will be held in Azerbaijan in January. The first four ranked teams will automatically qualify for the 2005 European Championship, which will take place in Croatia.
Wednesday 24 September 2003:
Ankara – Pool I
ROM – SCG 3-1 (25-11, 25-21, 23-25, 25-22)
GER – RUS 3-0 (25-22, 27-25, 25-19)
SVK – TUR 0-3 (20-25, 20-25, 14-25)
Ranking: 1. TUR 4-8 (12-0); 2. GER 4-8 (12-0); 3. RUS 4-6 (6-7); 4. ROM 4-6 (6-9); 5. SVK 4-4 (2-12); 6. SCG 4-4 (2-12).
Antalya – Pool II
BUL – NED 1-3 (25-22, 23-25, 18-25, 24-26)
UKR – CZE 3-2 (25-21, 26-24, 22-25, 22-25, 15-7)
POL – ITA 1-3 (25-20, 22-25, 20-25, 22-25)
Ranking: 1. ITA 4-7 (9-4); 2. NED 4-7 (11-6); 3. POL 4-7 (10-8); 4. UKR 4-6 (7-9); 5. BUL 4-5 (7-9); 6. CZE 4-4 (4-12).