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Israel Women complete a perfect day for national teams in Sheffield

The British Women played for the first time in front of a big home crowd
Sheffield, England, January 2, 2009 - Israel Women completed a satisfying opening day for the country's national teams by beating Montenegro in convincing fashion (25-18, 25-15, 25-11) in the opening match in their FIVB World Championship group at the English Institute of Sport, Sheffield.

The only sour note in the victory was an injury to influential hitter Anna Velikiy who had to be carried off court at 5-0 in the final set after Marija Sandic, the Montenegro captain, went through the net and landed on her ankle.

Arie Selinger, Israel’s legendary head coach, admitted it had left him deflated after the match: “I’m very sorry for my injured player. There’s no justification at losing such an important player especially as it was not a critical point in the match. We were a bit tense but to win 3-0 is a good result in the first match of the tournament. This team is only a year-and-a-half into its cycle and it will take another five to seven years before the team reaches maturity.”

Tatjana Frage, the Israeli captain, said, “It is never easy to win a volleyball match and losing one of our best players hurt us. But the rest of the players won the match for her.”

Velikiy was the most consistent hitter in the opening two sets but her replacement Tatjana Artmenko (formerly known as Shaposhnikov) also played her part with a number of impressive hits in the final set. The injury did not seem to upset Israel’s rhythm as they charged from 5-0 to 8-0 and then built up a 10-3 lead with some strong blocking from Inessa Vysotski. Montenegro’s Evgenija Milivojevic served three aces in the final set but then made a service error to give Israel match point. Polina Arazi duly finished it off. 

“Israel is a good team and they have been together for two years. Our service reception was good early in the game but then it was not so good,” said Montenegrin coach Vladimir Rackovic, “But we have a very young team.”

Portugal edged out hosts Great Britain in a five-set thriller (22-25, 27-25, 25-18, 25-27, 15-9) in their opening match. Both teams traded points in a memorable contest but it was the Portuguese side who took control when it mattered most - in the final set - to start their campaign with a victory. Left-handed hitter Ana Paulo did most of the damage as the British team could not pinpoint where her next attack was coming from. The Brits did save a match point in the fourth set to force the match to go the distance. The hosts led 6-5 in the final set but Portugal rallied to 11-6 under the steady serving of Viviane Isidoro.

“This is a young team and we are still growing,” said Portugal head coach Juan Diaz, “You learn a lot about players in this type of matches and the two teams were not far apart. After losing the match point in the fourth set, I just told the players to go out and play in the final set. At this stage in their development, it’s not so much about winning or losing but getting experience.”

After taking the first set, the British team saved four set points in the second before losing it narrowly on a serving ace by Juliana Antunes. Rachel Bragg then salvaged a match that had looked to be eluding their grasp when she produced a power hit in the fourth set when Portugal held a match point. But Portugal was not to be denied and their team held together in the final set to claim victory.

“This was our first experience of playing a competitive match in front of a crowd and with all the pressure involved since we played Albania in the European Championships last May,” said British coach Lorne Sawula. “We need more experience of such matches but my players have been working their tails off to prepare for this sort of challenges.”

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)
More press releases
4/01/2009 Israel defeat British in straight sets to qualify for second round
3/01/2009 British women beat Montenegro for first-ever World Championship win
30/12/2008 Great Britain to make Volleyball World Championships debut
16/12/2008 British Volleyball players have a ball in viral video promoting FIVB World Championship tournaments in Sheffield

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