Sheffield, England, January 4, 2009 - Israel qualified for the second round of the 2010 Women’s World Championship for the first time by breaking hosts Great Britain in three sets (25-12, 26-24, 25-19) in their final first-round match at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.
Israel won all three of their matches without losing a set and now advance to Azerbaijan for the next round against Ukraine, Belarus and Azerbaijan itself in May.
“You are always happy when you win,” said Israel coach Arie Selinger, “But I am already looking forward to the next round. We have beaten Azerbaijan and split with Belarus in recent matches so we have a chance. I was surprised at the standard of this tournament. Portugal were good and we were fortunate to catch Montenegro on a bad day and I knew all about the GB side. I will look at the pluses and the negatives from this weekend and then plan for the next round.”
Israel were in irresistible form in the first set as GB’s passing unit collapsed and a late service ace from Grace Carter delayed the inevitable as Israel cruised through 25-12. But GB came back strongly in the second set with Rachel Laybourne finding rare gaps in the Israel block and Carter also producing some big blocks. GB led 10-6 before Carter served wide, but the host team stuck to the task and an excellent block by Carter on Tatjana Frage put them 16-12 in front. It was tight all the way but Israel gained a disputed first set point when Frage looked to have hit the ball cleanly out of court but the referee ruled there had been a GB touch. Carter then blocked Frage on the next set point but it was the Israeli captain who had the final word as she put over the clinching point to make it 26-24.
GB again competed well in the third set but struggled to find their way past the Israel block. They led 7-6 but then Israel always seemed to have that little extra when it mattered most. Setter Lucy Wicks served out of court to give Israel their first set point and then it was fitting that Anna Velikiy, who suffered an ankle injury in the opening match against Montenegro, should contribute the final point as Israel took the set 25-19.
“Anna has been playing in some pain and been having injections and I was really happy and proud for her,” said Frage.
GB captain Nicky Osborne was not too downhearted at the result: “Israel played very aggressive volleyball and showed great attacking and blocking,” she said. “We made a slow start but we gave a good account of ourselves in set two and three. We have not played many matches at this level with all the pressure involved and we are learning all the time. We are showing progress - sometimes it’s only in patches - but we take something from every game we play.”
GB coach Lorne Sawula added, “I’m disappointed at the result but not the performance. I didn’t like the way we started the match but that was something to do with how Israel played. They are showing the “Selinger Bounce” in their game. We have faced a lot of adversity in recent months and are taking vast strides in getting up the international ladder.”
Portugal clinched the second place in the tournament with a convincing 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-14) win over Montenegro. There was little doubt about the outcome after the first set as the left-handed Ana Paulo again demonstrated her hitting power. Montenegro pulled back from 17-22 to 20-22 in the second set with some strong serving from Nevena Dragovic but Portugal hit back and a block by Marta Esteves closed out the set 25-20. There was some spirited resistance in the third set on Marija Stonkovic’s serve as Montenegro kept Portugal at bay but Paulo came up with some accurate hitting and it was fitting that she should serve the match point and Juliana Antunes applied the finishing touch to take the set 25-14.
“There was no pressure on us going into this match and we played our best volleyball of the tournament,” said Portugal coach Juan Diaz. “This is a young team still in construction and it has been a good weekend for us. Israel were the best team here and deserved to go through. Maybe if we’d won that third set against them, we could have beaten them but they are stronger physically than us and we were tired.”
Montenegro coach Vladimir Rackovic admitted, “Portugal completely deserved this victory as they were the better team. We did not have the team we wanted coming here as a couple of players were left at home because of injury. We could not play the team we wanted in the final match because of injuries but I had a 15-year-old (Evgenija Milivojevic) and a 16-year-old (Jelena Cvijovic) on court in the final set and that is good for the future. I was happy with the organisation this week and know that Great Britain will do a good job at hosting the 2012 Olympics.”
Great Britain vs. Portugal 2-3 (25-22, 25-27,18-25, 27-25, 9-15)
Israel vs. Montenegro 3-0 (25-18, 25-15, 25-11)
Great Britain vs. Montenegro 3-1 (26-24, 26-24, 21-25, 25-20)
Israel vs. Portugal 3-0 (25-16, 25-18, 27-25)
Great Britain vs. Israel 0-3 (12-25, 24-26, 19-25)
Portugal vs. Montenegro 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-14)
Final standings Women's First Round Pool B:
1. Israel 6 (3-0)
2. Portugal 5 (2-1)
3. Great Britain 4 (1-2)
4. Montenegro 3 (0-3)