ZAGREB, Croatia, 23 April 2003 – Croatia, Italy and Russia soaked up the first three semifinal berths in the Girls Under-18 European Championship on Wednesday after their second straight win in the series defeating Serbia and Montenegro, Hungary, Belarus, all in swift straight sets. In other action Germany reversed their fortunes, defeating Poland in a tight tiebreaker to keep their chances alive for the remaining berth.
Croatia met rival and neighbor Serbia and Montenegro, spurred on by a robust crowd of supporters, including Barbara Jelic, Croatia’s best ever player. Serbia and Montenegro led 11-8 in the second set, but their flutter was brief as the home team delivered the victory the fans had been waiting for. Senna Usic was the best player on the court, outspiking the opposition at every opportunity.
Italy made a flying start in the Pool I clash against Hungary on Wednesday morning, winning the first set 25-7. The Hungarian team made a brief comeback in the second set but failed to hang on to the ‘Squadra Azzurrini’. In the third set Hungary took three set points, but Giulia Decordi drove home three serves and moved Italy from 25-26 to 28-26 to take the match. Russia wrapped up their match with Belarus in just 51 minutes, aided by skilful setting by Anna Ovinnikova who neatly distributed balls to all of her attackers.
Germany bounced back into contention by defeating Poland in the Pool II clash, but it took them five sets to inflict defeat on the Poles and be in with a chance to reach the semifinals. Their coach Jens Tietbohl was cautious though, saying the group was a difficult one. He failed to speculate on whether they would clinch the last place. Preliminary matches conclude Thursday when the winner of the match between Germany and Serbia and Montenegro will take the final semifinal berth.
Because Europe has eight vacancies for the Girls Under-18 World Championship, all participating teams except the non-registered formation of Germany have already qualified for this event. Czech Republic, as the best non-qualified team for the Girls Under-18 European Championship will replace Germany in the world’s event. Results: Pool I: Italy def. Hungary 3-0 (25-7, 25-17, 28-26); Russia def. Belarus 3-0 (25-16, 25-8, 25-13). Ranking: 1, Russia, 2, Italy, 3, Belarus, 4, Poland. Pool II: Germany def. Poland 3-2 (19-25, 25-15, 25-17, 19-25, 15-9); Croatia def. Serbia & Montenegro 3-0 (25-12, 25-19, 25-16). Ranking: 1, Croatia; Serbia and Montenegro; Germany, Poland. Go to www.cev.lu for more information. Story by Arjen Meijer, CEV Confederation Press Officer