PRESS RELEASE 01.04.2005


Italian Boys and Girls represented in final four

Riga/Tallinn, April 1, 2005 - In the knock-out quarterfinal round of the Boys' and Girls' Youth European Championships 2005 France, Italy, Poland and Slovakia are the semifinalists in the Boys' under-18 competition, whilst in the Girls' under-19 tournament Italy, Croatia, Russia and the Ukraine made it to the Final Four.

Italy knocked defending Boys' European Youth Champion Russia out of the event in quarterfinal action in Riga, Latvia on Friday. The "Squadra Azzurra" booked a 3:0 victory over the Russians in one of the best youth matches ever played. Both teams were serving, attacking and blocking extremely strong. Italy was just a little bit better than the Russian Rockets in the first two sets. After that Russia took an early lead in the third set and had three set points at 24-21. Thanks to some great serves by Martino Matteo, Italy saved the match points to go on claiming the match on their second opportunity (28-26).

Italy will meet France in Saturday's semifinals. The French team played a very concentrated match against Slovenia, keeping the lead in all sets. Although Slovenia kept fighting, France was much too strong seizing the match 3:0.

Poland had an easy morning in the quarterfinal match against Bulgaria. Whilst the Polish players were in great shape, the Bulgarians seemed to have their mind somewhere else. Poland, with Jakub Jarosz as the best player on court, immediately took an 8-1 lead. Bulgaria only brought Poland into trouble at the end of the third set, but the straight set victory was never really in danger.

Slovakia will be the opponent of Poland in the semifinal after a surprising 3:2 victory over Serbia & Montenegro, one of the medal favourites. The Slovaks were leading 2-0 when the Serbian team came back to 2-2. In the fifth set tiebreaker both teams stayed equal until 7-7. At that moment Slovakia scored three points in a row (10-7). Serbia & Montenegrin libero Ivan Ilic had to take the consequences when protesting too strongly against the Italian first referee Gianni Bartolini, being sent off court with a red card. Slovakia finally won the match 15-11 in the fifth set.

In the Girls' competition last year's silver medallist Italy qualified first to the semifinal stage of the under-19 Youth European Championships, beating the Czech Republic 3:1. After a quick 2:0 lead the Italians lost their concentration a little, allowing the Czechs to go ahead with Helena Havelkova and Katerina Kociova scoring most points (5-8, 16-20). Although the Italians managed to draw balance (20-20, 22-22), Czech Veronika Matlova made sure that they gained no set points (23-24, 24-25). It was the Italians' own fault that gave their opponents the third set (26-28). Powerful blocking by Lucia Bosetti and Federica Stufi cleared the Italians the way in the fourth set (16-5). Only Czech captain Sarka Kubinova's powerful shortened the lead a little (21-10, 21-13) but finally the favourites pulled through (25-17). Whilst the Czech head coach Jiri Kozel was disappointed with his team's performance, the Italian captain Alice Lo Cascio was glad to have beaten the Czechs, as they possess a dangerous serving and attacking game.

Defending champion Croatia had an easier way to the semifinal with Austria as opposition. Even though the Austrians came close to winning the second set leading 23-19, the game of the Croatians was more complete, especially at the net where the 1,91m tall players Dina Dzapo and Hana Cutura pointed several times. Croatia took the second set 26-24. Croatian team captain Ana Grbac put continuous pressure on the Austrian reception (4-0, 5-2) who weren't able to come back anymore so that the favourites from Eastern Europe seized the match in straight sets (25-20).

The Russian Girls once again reached the semifinal stage, but this time want to improve from their fourth place in 2003. Even though they won 3:0 the game wasn't as easy as the score looks. The Germans showed strong fighting spirit and with their athleticism retrieved many balls in defense that already seemed lost. Losing the first set close (23-25) the German Girls stormed ahead in the second set, advancing to a maximum seven point lead (17-10) with Melanie Iwansky and Alisa Kasselmann gathering the points. On the other side Natalia Dianskaya succeeded in attack as well as in block, helping the Russian team to catch up and get back into the game, finally winning 25-23 and 25-13. "The second set was the key", commented German head coach Dirk Groß after the match, "if we had won that we might have won the whole encounter."

The final Girls' semifinalist is the Ukraine who eliminated Belarus, who won the bronze medal in 2001, in straight sets. In the first two sets the score was balanced up until 21-21 but then the Ukraine kept the stronger nerves. In particular, Ukrainian lefthander Olha Savenchuk helped her team to win the second set (25-21, 25-22). Storming ahead in the third set attaining a maximum lead of six points (19-13) the girls coached by Viktor Perebynis didn't let go of their lead anymore, grabbing the third and final set 25-23. Not having reached the main draw in 2003 the Ukrainian girls will be especially happy. However, 2003 runner-up Italy will surely not show any mercy in the first semifinal of Saturday before defending champion Croatia faces Russia.

The semifinal matches will take place on Saturday, whilst the events in Riga and Tallinn will come to a conclusion on Sunday. Besides fighting for the European title, the best six teams will qualify for the World Championship, which will be in Algeria for the boys (24 August - 1 September 2005) and in Macau for the girls (23-31 July 2005).

Youth European Championships 2005

Boys Final Round in Riga (LAT)
Quarterfinal results

POL - BUL 3:0 25-15, 25-19, 25-22 72 mins
FRA - SLO 3:0 25-20, 25-19, 25-22 72 mins
ITA - RUS 3:0 25-21, 25-20, 28-26 84 mins
SCG - SVK 2:3 16-25, 14-25, 25-16, 25-20, 11-15 97 mins

Match schedule (local time)

Saturday, 2 April 2005
17.00 POL - SVK 1st semifinal
19.30 FRA - ITA 2nd semifinal

Sunday, 3 April 2005
17.00 POL/SVK - FRA/ITA Bronze medal match
19.30 POL/SVK - FRA/ITA Final

Girls Final Round in Tallinn (EST)
Quarterfinal results

ITA - CZE 3:1 25-18, 25-12, 26-28, 25-17 106 mins
CRO - AUT 3:0 25-13, 26-24, 25-20 70 mins
GER - RUS 0:3 23-25, 23-25, 16-25 79 mins
UKR - BLR 3:0 25-21, 25-22, 25-23 65 mins

Match schedule (local time)

Saturday, 2 April 2005
17.00 ITA - UKR 1st semifinal
19.30 CRO - RUS 2nd semifinal

Sunday, 3 April 2005
15.30 ITA/UKR - CRO/RUS Bronze medal match
18.00 ITA/UKR - CRO/RUS Final

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