PRESS RELEASE 03.04.2005


Ukraine with amazing comeback!

Tallinn, Estonia, April 3, 2005 - The Ukrainian Girls' national team, with Most Valuable Player Olha Savenchuk at front, claimed the gold medal in the Youth European Championship 2005, beating Russia after trailing 2:0 behind.

Although Russia had the more tiring semifinal the day before, beating Croatia 21-19 in a tiebreak set, they totally dominated from the start, winning the first two sets (25-20, 25-17). The Ukraine seemed nervous, committing many unforced errors. In particular their star player Olha Savenchuk didn't perform as confidently as usual. The Russians on the other side were determined and scored from all sides, but mostly through the middle.

Even though the Ukrainian Girls seemed a little powerless, they didn't give up just yet, taking an early 4:0 lead in the third set. With the victory only a few points away, the Russian squad came back (8-8). Both teams shared points until 16-16, the breaking point of the match. Whilst Viktoria Rusakova and Natalia Nazarova helped their team greatly in securing the first two sets, unexpected errors crept into their game at the deciding moment of the third set. The Ukraine took this chance to pull away with Valeriya Goncharova and Olha Savenchuk collecting the next five points (16-21). Although Russia managed to climb out of their hole (18-22), determined Olha Savenchuk didn't give them the chance to revive and with a perfect block by Anna Dyachenko the yellow-blue team shortened Russia's 2:0 lead to 2:1 (19-25).

Jazzed up by this success the Ukraine kick-started the fourth set with a six-point leeway (4-10). Thanks to Elena Kovalenko the Russians reduced the gap (9-12), but only a few minutes later the 16-year old unluckily sprained her ankle following a smash (15-18). Still, the Russians balanced to 20-20 and even went into the lead with Natalia Dianskaya coming on strong (22-20); only three points away from the gold medal. The first set point though went to the Ukraine (23-24). Although Maryna Korolkova managed to defend the first set point against Russia, Olha Savenchuk took advantage of a misunderstanding within the Russian defense, securing the second set point with one of her perfect left-handed strikes (24-26).

A few unforced errors at the beginning of the deciding tiebreak on Russian side helped the Ukraine to build a relatively comfortable lead (1-5). In this important phase of the match the net worked against Elena Peshekhonova and her team with Natalia Dianskaya's smash landing in the net and the Russians losing all occurring net duels. Still, Elena Samoylova and Viktoria Rusakova helped their team to shorten the advantage of the Ukraine to only one point (9-10) but the Ukraine reacted with Anna Dyachenko spiking as well as team captain Olga Geyko blocking successfully (9-13). There was no more coming back for Russia at this point so that the Ukraine took the first opportunity for the gold medal after two hours of play (9-15).

"Our goal was to win the European Championships, which is what we have achieved", stated Ukrainian head coach Viktor Perebyynis with a smile. Analysing the match Ukraine's team captain Olga Geyko admitted that they thought too much about the gold medal at the beginning of the match and didn't play their own game: "That is the main reason why we lost the first two sets. But then we started to play our own game with which we have also won the other matches with the turning point being the third set."

The Russian head coach Irina Bespalova and team captain Elena Peshekhonova were of little words, but congratulated the other team for this title, emphasising that the final rankings give a realistic picture of the level of all teams within this competition.

In the match for the bronze medal Italy beat defending champion Croatia 3:1. The match started very promising with both teams performing strong, but Italy was the better team at the end, seizing the first set 25-22.

Croatia managed to draw set balance by winning the second set (25-20), in which the level of volleyball on both sides clearly degenerated. The Croatians, who unluckily lost the semifinal to Russia in five sets the day before, continued to dominate in the third set, advancing with a maximum of five points (11-16), however, at 14-19 came the turning point where the Italians attained five points in a row (19-19) and went on scoring under the influence of Costanza Manfredini (22-20) to finally take the deciding 2:1 set lead (25-22).

Successful attacks by Hana Cutura kept the Croatians alive with both teams sharing points in the fourth set (17-15, 20-20). Costanza Manfredini gave her team the important two-point advantage, which Italian Silvia Morandi retained by effective diagonal spikes. The 17-year old left-hander was also responsible for Italy'?s match victory when her attack fell short of the net, securing Italy the bronze medal.

"My team had the tiger eyes today which I missed in yesterday's match", commented Italian head coach Giuseppe Galli, "even though my players are physically not as strong as the Croatians, they beat them through their mental strength." The Croatian head coach on the other side was not too disappointed, as their goal was to qualify for the World Championship.

Individual Awards :
Most Valuable Player: Olha Savenchuk (UKR)
Best Attacker: Olha Savenchuk (UKR)
Best Server: Jelena Alajbeg (CRO)
Best Blocker: Natalia Dianskaya (RUS)
Best Setter: Ana Grbac (CRO)
Best Libero: Aleksandra Vinogradova (RUS)
Best Receiver: Lucia Bosetti (ITA)

Youth European Championship 2005
Girls Final Round in Tallinn (EST)

Final result
UKR - RUS 3:2 20-25, 17-25, 25-19, 26-24, 15-9 119 mins

Bronze Medal Match
ITA - CRO 3:1 25-22, 20-25, 25-22, 25-22 108 mins

Match for 5-6 place
GER - BLR 3:0 25-23, 25-22, 25-22 76 mins

Match for 7-8 place
AUT - CZE 3:0 25-23, 25-23, 26-24 83 mins

Match for 9-10 place
SCG - TUR 3:2 22-25, 20-25, 25-16, 25-18, 15-13 124 mins

Match for 11-12 place
EST - HUN 3:2 19-25, 27-25, 19-25, 25-14, 15-13 116 mins

Final Ranking
1. Ukraine
2. Russia
3. Italy
4. Croatia
5. Germany
6. Belarus
7. Austria
8. Czech Republic
9. Serbia & Montenegro
10. Turkey
11. Estonia
12. Hungary

The first six teams of the Youth European Championship 2005 qualify for the FIVB Youth World Championship in Macau from 23-31 July 2005

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