Review 2013 – Russian boys rule in U19 World Championship
Anyone with any doubts as to whether Russia’s next generation of volleyball players could match their seniors had them wiped away at the FIVB Boys’ U19 World Championship in Mexico. Russia took the gold medal, adding to their previous golds in 1999 and 2005.
Alexander Karikov’s side held off an impressive China side in the final with a 3-1 (25-23, 22-25, 25-17, 25-14) victory and in doing so they added the world crown to their European title. The victory over China completed an unbeaten run in the tournament that began with wins over Iran, France, Rwanda and Finland in the group stage and continued with further successes over USA, Cuba and Iran in the elimination rounds.
“When I arrived in Mexico 14 days ago I had in my mind that the final match would be against China, so I was mentally prepared for it,” Karikov said. “The reason for that thinking was the minimal mistakes this team makes. I talked to my players about the need to produce strong serves and organise the block. When we lost the second set I told them to remember our plan and that the only way to win against China was with our serves. Then we started to serve better and better.”
Viktor Poletaev led the way with 25 points in the final, while Dmitry Volkov weighed in with 14 and setter and Most Valuable Player Pavel Pankov added 13 of his own, including seven aces.
Pankov continued a fine family tradition by winning the MVP award after a tournament in which he was a menace to his opponents with his powerful serves and well-timed incursions in attack. His mother, Marina Pankova, was a member of the USSR team that won gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games and the 1990 FIVB Women’s World Championship. His father, Vadim Pankov, is coach of the women’s team that features his sister, Ekaterina, as setter. Pankov was also part of the Russia team that won the FIVB Men’s U21 World Championship later in the summer.
“He is the leader of our team,” Karikov said. “He learned how to play volleyball when he was a little kid of four because everyone in his family plays the game. He is a very smart young man with an all-round ability for the game.”
Poland claimed the bronze medal with a 3-1 victory (19-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-17) over Iran in a match where the winners scored 18 blocks, including a tournament-high nine by Batlomeij Lemanski. He finished the bronze-medal match with 18 points, a total matched by team captain Bartosz Bucko.
“I am very happy with this victory against a strong team like Iran,” Poland coach Wieslaw Czaja said. “Starting from the second set, we reduced our errors and our attack improved and we were able to recover mentally from the loss to China the day before.
“Coming to Mexico has become something special to me. Mexico is a good country for me, because as a player I won a gold medal almost 40 years ago, and now I’ve won this bronze medal as a coach in another World Championship.”
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