FIVB - Volleyball World League

Press release

Russia claim needed win over Bulgaria

Last year's World League MVP Nikolay Pavlov top scored for Russia with 16 points

Sofia, Bulgaria, July 5, 2014 - Russia drew level with USA at the top of FIVB Volleyball World League 2014 Pool B after defeating Bulgaria 3-1 (25-22, 25-23, 22-25, 25-20) in Sofia’s Arena Armeec on Saturday. With the top two teams in the pool advancing to the FIVB Volleyball World League 2014 Group 1 Finals both USA and Russia have 21 points with Serbia in third on 20 with all three sides still to play one more match on Sunday.

Key points

•    With the top two teams in Pool B advancing to the FIVB Volleyball World League 2014 Group 1 Finals in Florence, Italy (which will take place from July 16-20), Russia moved to 21 points, equal with USA with Serbia on 20 points. Bulgaria are out of contention on four points.

•    Serbia host USA and Russia play Bulgaria again in Sofia on Sunday.

•    Win was Russia’s 13th against Bulgaria in 17 World League games, including two straight sets wins in Week 4 of this year’s edition.

•    The 3-1 win was the first time in 11 matches, that Russia have not beaten Bulgaria in straight sets.

•    Bulgaria have now only one win to their name in their last 14 World League. Their only victory came in five sets against USA, in USA on June 21.

•    Tsvetan Sokolov top scored in the match with 19 points in his first appearance as Bulgarian captain. Last year’s World League MVP Nikolay Pavlov was Russia’s top scorer with 16 points.

Bulgaria, still dizzy from this year's World League poor performance where they have managed only four points including one victory, faced Russia with five changes in their roster with captain Todor Aleksiev, libero Teodor Salparov, Nikolay Nikolov, Todor Skrimov and Viktor Yosifov all sitting out the game. Back on the bridge sat the new/old coach Nayden Naydenov. On the opposite side of the net Russia, who started the World League with their second team, came to Sofia with almost the best bench they have, smelling the opportunity to be in the Final Six.

A fast start from Russia saw the defending champions open a 4-0 lead with the hosts still catching their breath. The advantage was reduced twice but the Olympic gold medallists still maintained control of the set until the second technical timeout. Then setter Sergey Grankin on serve made it 20-14, effectively sealing the set. The Lions' new captain Tsvetan Sokolov stepped up to the plate but his efforts only postponed the inevitable with Russia winning the first set 25-22.

Nikolay Penchev and Valentin Bratoev tried to assist Sokolov in the second set and Bulgaria was much better looking on court however, despite the variety in the Bulgarian attack, Denis Biriukov and Nikolay Pavlov (eight points in the set) put paid to any hope the Lions had of leading in the set with some astonishing spikes. With Russia in charge of the set they had four set points at 24-20. The hosts managed to save three of them but it was not enough and Russia were ahead two sets to zero.

With Sokolov still leading the charge for Bulgaria, the home side came out at the start of the third set with all guns blazing, taking the lead for the first time in the match. It was a lead they weren’t to relinquish with Penchev and Valentin Brateov particularly being better allies for the potent Sokolov as Bulgaria wrapped up the third set 25-22.

With Russia boasting the likes of Olympic final Man of the Match and last year’s World League Best Blocker Dmitriy Muserskiy and last year’s MVP Pavlov, they had much more experience than their young Bulgarian rivals, and this was evident in what turned out to be a comfortable fourth set win. They again took an early lead and were never headed, even though Sokolov, who scored 19 points in his first match as captain of Bulgaria, and Valentin Bratoev tried their best to stem the flow. Their spirit only was enough to save three match points after trailling 24-17, but Russia closed it at the end. 

Bulgaria and Russia meet again on Sunday at 20:00 local time in Arena Armeec Sofia in a match that Russia will play for a World League Finals spot and Bulgaria will be playing for pride.

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