Greece and Slovenia claim tickets for FIVB Girls' Youth World Championship in Thailand
Bar, Montenegro, April 6, 2013 – Greece and Slovenia secured their places in the FIVB Girls' Youth World Championship on Saturday with victories in the 5-8 semifinals at the 2013 CEV Girls' Youth Volleyball European Championship . Greece held off powerhouse Russia 3-0, while Slovenia overcame Germany 3-1.
Greece 3, Russia 0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-21)
Greece fended off a forceful challenge from Russia, who missed out on one of the highly coveted World Championship spots.
Greece’s captain Olga Strantzali was the top scorer with 18 points. Anthi Vasilantonaki added 15 kills, while Angelina Sperskayte was Russia’s best spiker with 10 points.
Greece did not take notice of the tall Russian blockers as they matched the strength Russia showed early in the first set. Russia tried hard to come back as Greece went ahead 16-14, but were unable to surpass the Greek players' momentum. When Greece went 23-21 up, Olga Strantzali, who had been impressive in the Greek offence, smashed a heavy spike down the right before adding an impressive service winner to seal the first set.
Russia's lack of offensive power, combined with brilliant attacks by Anthi Vasilantonaki and Alexandra Psoma, allowed the Greeks to keep a small advantage until 16-15 in the second set. As the battle heated up, the scores were tied numerous times before Greece displayed an outstanding 6-0 run from 19-19 to take a well-deserved 2-0 lead.
Despite early 0-6 and 7-15 deficits in the third set, the Russian team refused to give up, using Daria Kokoreva’s powerful spikes to spark a comeback. But with Strantzali and Vasilantonaki unstoppable in attack, Greece kept control and clinched victory on a Vasilantonaki block.
“We are very happy for this win," said Greece's coach Dimitrios Floros. "Even though we did not succeed in finishing among the top four, this victory means a lot to us.”
"The Russians are a strong team and we were a little bit afraid of playing them as they are physically very strong," said Greece's captain Olga Strantzali. "However, we were mentally stronger today.”
“The Greek team played very well and they deserved to win," said Russia's coach Yury Shchuplov. "They looked stronger and well prepared for this match.”
“I am not satisfied with how we played," said Russia's captain Svetlana Serbina. "Even though Greece are very strong, we did not show our best and therefore we are very sad.”
Slovenia 3, Germany 1 (25-19, 16-25, 25-18, 25-15)
Behind Lana Scuka’s attacking power, Slovenia stunned Germany in four sets. Scuka scored a total of 23 points for her side while Germany’s Julia Schäfer had 21 kills.
Slovenia and Germany were evenly matched and the first set was an exchange of strong attacks between powerhouse spikers Scuka and Schäfer. It was only late in the set when Slovenia moved into top gear and were able to pull away from their West European rivals. Consecutive German errors on attack and service handed the set to captain Eva Mori’s team.
In the second set, Schäfer and Steffi-Martha Kuhn helped improve Germany’s attack as they began to spike with better efficiency and outscore their opponents early on. Germany built a commanding lead thanks to an assault on the Slovenian receivers – a problem that remained unresolved for Slovenia. Schäfer poured in more unstoppable serves and got help from her teammates in defence as they drew even at 1-1.
Slovenia came out determined in the second set and took a 14-10 advantage before Annegret Hölzig and Schäfer dragged their side back into the game, turning the frame on its head at 15-15. But despite the best efforts of the young German talents, the black-and-whites could not stop the Slovenians from pulling away to victory in the third set.
Slovenia continued with good attacking as they took control of the fourth set. Germany made some last-minute runs but it was not enough to spark a turnaround. Nika Markovic ended the set and match with a block on the right flank.
“I told you at the technical meeting: Thailand is in our dreams! It’s the first time in Slovenia’s history that a team has made it to the World Championship. I still can’t believe it," said Slovenia's coach Joze Casar.
"We put a lot of pressure on the German receivers," said Slovenia's captain Eva Mori. "On the other hand, we controlled our game in almost all aspects. I can’t explain how happy we are.”
“Slovenia deserved the victory," said Germany's coach Jens Tietböhl. "They played much better. We experienced huge problems in service reception. I’m disappointed as my team was not ready for today’s duel.”
“We came back strongly in the second set, but couldn’t maintain the same rhythm throughout the whole match," said Germany's captain Steffi-Martha Kuhn. "Too bad.”
The tournament’s final rankings will determine the six teams that will represent Europe at this summer’s FIVB Girls' Youth World Championship in Thailand, as well as the seven nations taking part at the European Youth Olympic Festival in the Netherlands.
All semifinal and classification matches are available live and for free at www.laola1.tv.