Pila & Wloclawek, Poland, August 09, 2003 - The first match-day of the Preliminary Round in the 2003 FIVB 8th Girls' Under 18 World Championship, played in two Polish cities: Pila and Wloclawek, supplied all the drama and tension but no surprises following eight exciting games.
For hosts Poland however, they were closest to being one of the first victims of the an upset when they took on Thailand.
The home team, based on the students of the Polish Volleyball Federation's school, started the tournament very nervously but had luck on its side twice in the most important moments of the match. In the opening set the Asians were leading 23-20 but conceded five straight points to gift the set to the Poles.
There was a repeat in the tie-breaker when Poland had to peg back Thailand's 10-8 to eventually claim the set 15-13 and the match 3-2.
"Our rivals played excellently in defence and we could not break through," Polish head coach Mariusz Lobacz said. "I hope we will improve in the following matches" .
On Sunday his players are to face a Pool B outsider in Egypt. On Saturday the Egyptians had absolutely no chance against the lofty Russians, who are always among the favourites in international Volleyball tournaments, going down 3-0.
In Pool D, like Pool B is located in Pila, Brazil and the USA both proved their strength beating European teams Bulgaria and the Czech Republic 3-0 and 3-1 respectively.
For the Americans victory was not reached easily as the Czech Republic initially kept the game under its control. The crucial moment came at the end of the second set when the Czechs lost not only two setballs but furthermore their confidence.
"We trained very hard to prepare to this tournament and it was great to see all of our hard work pay off with a win" - commented Sarah Florian, captain of the US team.
Brazil impressed a lot with its straight-set victory over Belarus. Powerful services and attacks of Fernanda Rodrigues and her team-mates simply demolished the Belarussian defence. The Eastern European team did not resist at all in the third set in which only five points were lost by the Brazilians.
In Wloclawek, a clash between Italy and Chinese Taipei was the match of the day. Both sides performed equally on a high level but it was Squadra Azzura which eventually left the court victorious 3-1. For Luca Pieragnoli, Italy's head coach, the game was very hard because "…the Asian teams play a specific kind of volleyball, which is different from the European one".
Also in Pool C, China triumphed over Hungary 3-0 giving the Europeans absolutely no possibility to gain advantage at any point during the match. The defending champion shall be considered as one of the candidates for gold, again.
Europe's hopes lies among two Balkan teams assigned to Pool A. Croatia, the European Champion, had no problem with prevailing over Venezuela 3-0 while Serbia and Montenegro had even an easier task facing Kenya (3-0), helped by the fact the African players arrived in Wloclawek only a few hours before their first match and were extremely tired after a three day trip.
Day One results
Pool A (Wloclawek)
Serbia and Montenegro def. Kenya, 3-0 (25-12, 25-11, 25-7)
Croatia def. Venezuela, 3-0 (25-14, 25-17, 25-19)
Pool B (Pila)
Russia def. Egypt, 3-0 (25-12, 25-16, 25-11)
Poland def. Thailand, 3-2 (25-23, 25-19, 14-25, 22-25, 15-13)
Pool C (Wloclawek)
Italy def. Chinese Taipei, 3-1 (25-13, 24-26, 25-15, 25-13)
China def. Hungary, 3-0 (25-10, 25-14, 25-22)
Pool D (Pila)
Brazil def. Belarus, 3-0 (25-15, 25-14, 25-5)
USA def. Czech Republic (22-25, 26-24, 25-20, 25-11)
POOL STANDINGS (FIRST ROUND, DAY ONE)
Serbia and Montenegro (1-0)
Chinese Taipei (0-1)
Czech Republic (0-1)