ZAGREB, Croatia, 27 April 2003 - Croatia dismissed Italy in straight sets in the final of the Girls Under-18 European Championship on Sunday here in the Croatian capital to seal the country's first ever major volleyball title.
Supported by more than 2,000 fans, Croatia mowed down Italy for the top spot after going into the championship with modest hopes of a minor placing.
Italy, the defending champion and title favorite was overwhelmed by not only the Croatian fans, but were also outplayed by the Croats who slipped through the first set 25-13 in apparent ease.
Italy started stronger in the second set but could not shake off their opponent. After the teams leveled at 8-all Croatia powered forward take the second set 25-14. the third was a mere formality and Croatia waltzed off the court as champions.
Croatian coach Nino Matjacic was speechless after the match, before saying "Now we won, everything looked easy, but you cannot imagine how difficult it was to win an important tournament like this. We will only realize after we look back on it.'
Setter Diana Rescic and Senna Ucic both excelled for Croatia and it was no surprise that Ucic was named Most Valuable Player. Italian Veronica Angeloni received the
award as best attacker.
With this histories victory the girls are marching in the footsteps of such stars like Barbara Jelic, Szjezana Mijic and Natasja Leto who helped Croatia to three successive European Championship silver medals during the '90s.
Mijic was in the hall on Sunday to watch the new champions.
In other action, Serbia and Montenegro upset Russia in the match for the bronze medal (3-1). It was the first ever youth medal for the country of the Men's Olympic
While Russia looked tired after Saturday's semifinal, Serbia and Montenegro showed great spirit and even after conceding the first set, kept their head and went on to win the match 3-1.
In other action, Germany finished fifth after an impressive straight sets victory over Poland and Hungary finished seventh after winning against 2001 bronze medalist Belarus (3-1).
Because Europe has eight vacancies for the Girls Under-18 World Championship, all participating teams except the non-registered German team 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 event.
Results Sunday 27 April:
Final - Croatia def. Italy 3-0 (25-13, 25-14, 25-18)
Classification 3-4: Serbia & Montenegro def. Russia 3-1 (25-27, 25-21, 25-17, 25-19)
Classification 5-6: Germany def. Poland 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-20)
Classification 7-8: Hungary def. Belarus 3-1 (19-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-19)
FINAL RANKING (Q = Qualified for World Under-18 Championships)
1. CRO (Q)
2. ITA (Q)
3. YUG (Q)
4. RUS (Q)
6. POL (Q)
7. HUN (Q)
8. BLR (Q)
Most Valuable Player: Senna Usic (CRO); Best Attacker: Veronica Angeloni (ITA); Best Blocker: Ilaria Garzaro (ITA); Best Server: Mirjana Djuric (YUG); Best Receiver: Senna Usic (CRO); Best Setter: Diana Rescic (CRO); Best Libero: Ekaterina Kabeshova (RUS)