PRESS RELEASE 02.04.2005


Italy and Croatia beaten!

Riga/Tallinn, April 2, 2005 - Poland will face France in the Boys' and the Ukraine will encounter Russia in the Girls' Youth European Championships 2005 finals, which are taking place in the Baltic States of Latvia and Estonia.

In Saturday's semifinals in the Boys' competition Poland defeated Slovakia 3:1, whilst France was only a little stronger than the Italian team (3:2).

Poland had the advantage of playing an easy quarterfinal on Friday, whereas their opponent Slovakia had to fight hard to eliminate Serbia & Montenegro in the round of the last eight. It was therefore no surprise that Poland won the first set easily, taking an early lead in the second one. But Slovakia came back, putting the finalist of the last two editions into deep trouble. The Slovak team, the biggest surprise of the tournament, won the second set and was back in the match. After Poland won the third set, the Polish team led 20-14 in the fourth set. Whilst the Polish players already believed they had won the match, Slovakia came back tremendously. Nevertheless, the Slovak run was finally finished at 20-19, so that Poland grabbed the victory (25-20).

The other semifinal was even more spectacular with France facing Italy. The two top teams demonstrated an amazingly high-quality volleyball show, which was highly appreciated by the over 1'000 fans present. Italy started extremely well, winning the first set and taking a lead in the second one. But France reacted with some great serves by captain Emmanuel Ragondet,claiming the second as well as the third set. Italy fought back and continued their good performance from the first set into the fourth. The Squadra Azzurra was leading the entire set, thus a fifth set tiebreaker had to bring the decision. Up until 10-10 there was no difference between the two superpowers. Some great serve and defense work of France finally made the difference (15-12). At the end of the match, the more than 1'000 spectators gave both teams a standing ovation which lasted an entire ten minutes.

"This was really tough", stated French head coach Yves Logeais immediately after the match. "But we knew before the match that it would be tough. We kept our concentration and I am really happy to have achieved victory."

In the classification matches for the fifth until eighth position Russia overthrew Slovenia 3:0, whilst Bulgaria defeated Serbia & Montenegro 3:1. Hence, besides the four semifinalists, Bulgaria and Russia are qualified for the Youth World Championship from 24 August - 1 September 2005 in Algeria.

Ukraine was the first team to qualify for the Girls' final, eliminating 2003 runner-up Italy 3:1. After having won the first set 25-20 with a complete Italian team, especially Costanza Manfredini scoring on several attacks, the performance of Giuseppe Galli's team went downhill from then on, whilst the Ukrainians committed fewer errors. At 13-13 in the second set three mistakes on the Italian side gave Olga Geyko and Co. an important leeway (16-13), which Olha Savenchuk increased with tremendous strikes (19-15). However, the Italians didn't give up just yet, drawing equal at 23-23 thanks to strong blocking and some clever play by Lucia Bosetti. Gilda Lombardo was the key player of the Italian team at the end of the second set, defending the first set point against them. Unfortunately, it was the same player with the number 7 who also smashed the ball in the net, handing over the second set to the Ukraine (26-24). Starting off stronger in the third set the East Europeans gained a maximum five-point advantage (11-6) thanks to in particular Olha Savenchuk and Anna Dyachenko. Again, the Italians managed to come back, setting most passes to Costanza Manfredini who booked the points (13-13, 19-19). Following the strong phase, however, came the weak phase from which the yellow-blue squad profited. There was no stopping Olha Savenchuk who scored four times and with the help of Maryna Korolkova and the rest of her team took the 2:1 set lead (25-20).

Dominating the first half of the fourth set it seemed as if the Italians had recovered from losing the third set so unexpectedly, but following the longest rally of the match, which the Ukrainians decided in their favour (13-12), the Italian team fell apart. Lucia Bosetti and Costanza Manfredini did everything possible to prevent their defeat (20-16) but they couldn't do anything against the strong performance by the Ukrainian team, finally having to admit defeat (25-18).

"My team wasn't as focused as during the preceding games", Italy's head coach Giuseppe Galli commented after the match, "I'm very disappointed by the mental weakness my players showed today. However, we came here to qualify for the World Championships, which we did, but also to win a medal. Thus, tomorrow is a new day and we will do our best in order to win the bronze."

The second surprise came shortly after when defending Girls' champion Croatia were beaten by Russia in a tremendously exciting match, which lasted over two hours. Both teams played equally strong and each set was tight. On the Croatian side most attacks went over no. 1, Hana Cutura, who with the help of her 1,91m height, scored the maximum points for her team. Nevertheless, the Russians were extremely compact on block, managing to defend several attacks successfully.

Whilst the Russians saved their seven-point lead to secure the third set 25-18, thus the 2:1 set lead, the Croatians stormed through the fourth set with Jelena Alajbeg, Ines Medved and Hana Cutura scoring (17-25). The most outstanding players on Russian side were Natalia Dianskaya, Irina Stratanovich, Elena Samoylova, as well as Viktoria Rusakova, the latter named bringing the first match point to Russia in the deciding tiebreak set (14-13). Still, it took the Russians another five match points (as well as one match point against them at 15-16) in order to take their sixth match point at 20-19 with Elena Samoylova making the winning attack.

"I congratulate the Russian team", stated Croatian head coach Jurko Damir, "however, we also deserved to win." "Yes, the game was absolutely even", agreed Irina Bespalova, the Russian head coach, "all Final Four teams are of the same strength and whoever wins these matches can consider themselves as lucky."

In the semifinals for the 5th and 6th position, deciding which two teams will qualify together with the Final Four teams for the World Championship in Macau from 23-31 July 2005, Belarus defeated the Czech team in straight sets and Germany came back from 0:1 to beat Austria 3:1.

The final ranking will be decided on Sunday with the main final of the girls' event taking place at 18.00 local time in the Audentes sports hall of Tallinn (EST) and the two best European boys' teams will battle it out at 19.30 local time in Riga's SH Daugava competition hall.

Youth European Championships 2005
Boys Final Round in Riga (LAT)

Semifinal results
POL - SVK 3:1 25-18, 25-27, 25-20, 25-20 98 mins
FRA - ITA 3:2 22-25, 26-24, 25-23, 19-25, 15-12 108 mins

Semifinal results for places 5-6
BUL - SCG 3:1 25-15, 27-25, 22-25, 25-22 89 mins
RUS - SLO 3:0 32-30, 25-16, 25-22 76 mins

Match schedule (local time)
Sunday, 3 April 2005
12.00 SCG - SLO Match for 7-8 place
14.30 BUL - RUS Match for 5-6 place
17.00 SVK - ITA Bronze medal match
19.30 POL - FRA Final

Girls Final Round in Tallinn (EST)

Semifinal results
ITA - UKR 1:3 25-20, 24-26, 20-25, 18-25 105 mins
CRO - RUS 2:3 19-25, 25-21, 18-25, 25-17, 19-21 128 mins

Semifinal results for places 5-6
BLR - CZE 3:0 25-15, 25-18, 25-21 66 mins
GER - AUT 3:1 19-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-15 101 mins

Match schedule (local time)
Sunday, 3 April 2005
12.00 AUT - CZE Match for 7-8 place
15.00 GER - BLR Match for 5-6 place
15.30 ITA - CRO Bronze medal match
18.00 UKR - RUS Final

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