ZAGREB, Croatia, 26 April – Croatia and Italy on Saturday won the right to contest the final on Sunday of the Girls Under-18 European Championship in Zagreb after hosts Croatia defeated Russia 3-1and Italy nailed Serbia and Montenegro in straight sets. Croatia and Italy won all four of their matches on the way to the final. The Croatian players well supported in the stadium were visibly nervous in their match against Russia, which held the crowd on edge until the fourth set. The decisive factor was probably some great spikes from Senna Usic, player of the match, whose contribution helped the hosts to victory, although the team needed four match points to seal their place in the final. Croatians Hana Cutura and setter Diana Rescic played a great match while Tatiana Soldatoova, Anna Beskova and Olga Sazhina were the best for Russia.
‘My players were extremely nervous, because they knew they were playing for a medal,’ Croatian coach Nino Matjacic said. ‘We had some problems in block and reception, while the Russian attack and block was great.” Italy played a very concentrated match against Serbia and Montenegro making few mistakes and although tournament rookie Serbia and Montenegro stuck with them commendably they never relinquished the lead. Serbia and Montenegro had a set point in the third set but were outblocked by Italy who sealed the set and match at 30-28. Captain Veronica Angeloni was again one of the best players. In the matches for places 5-8, Germany defeated Hungary (3-0), while Poland was stronger than Belarus (3-1). Germany plays Poland for fifth place on Sunday and Belarus and Hungary will fight for position seven. Because Europe has eight vacancies for the Girls Under-18 World Championship, all participating teams except the non-registered Germany are 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. More on the net at www.cev.lu
Results Saturday - Semifinals: Croatia def. Russia 3-1 (25-20, 18-25, 25-20, 28-26); Italy def. Serbia & Montenegro 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 30-28). Classification 5-8: Germany def. Hungary 3-0 (25-22, 26-24, 25-15); Poland def. Belarus 3-1 (28-26, 22-25, 28-26, 25-15).