Russia top Pool II to qualify for Youth European Champ semis
Belgrade, Serbia, April 16, 2013 – Russia has become the first team to secure a semi-final spot at the 2013 CEV Youth Volleyball European Championship – Boys.
On Tuesday it managed its fourth consecutive victory in Pool II – 3:1 against France and made sure it will finish top of the standings after the last competition day in Belgrade. Turkey won a thrilling five-setter against Finland as both teams are now safely among the top eight of the tournament. Bulgaria maintained a slim chance of also getting on the bus to Laktaši, venue of the final weekend, by achieving its first win of the tournament – 3:2 against defending champions and hosts Serbia.
Through the mid-section of the first set France was an equal rival to the powerful Russian team. However, right before the second technical time-out the strongest Russian weapon, the block, started to function perfectly and Pool II leaders created a nice gap for themselves at 16-13. After the break France did their best to stay close, but the Russians were too solid, and they did not allow any surprises. In the end, Victor Poletaev’s spiking kill after a powerful Nikolai Chepura’s serve made it 25-17 for Russia and 1:0 in sets.
In the beginning of the second set Russia stormed to a 6-2 lead, and France’s head coach Slimane Belmadi had to ask for a time-out. However, it only got worse for the French side who could not find the key to Russia’s game. The gap was getting bigger by the minute, and once again Russia easily wrapped it up at 25-14 making it 2:0 in sets.
The third set developed pretty much in the same way as the first one, only the roles were changed, and this time France went to the second technical break leading 16-14. The French augmented the lead even further (21-17), but Russia came close by winning two points in a row (21-19). France asked for a time-out, and after the break Stephen Boyer stepped up with an ace for the set point at 24-21. Russia’s Victor Poletaev managed to narrow the gap serving a couple of fantastic shots, but in the end he missed the most important one and France got away with a slim, but well deserved 25-23.
In the fourth set the Russian block was once again the key factor of the game. France struggled to come up with an answer and ended up falling behind too much as Russia was heading smoothly to yet another victory. In the end, it was an easy 25-15 and 3:1 to the unbeaten Russians who officially qualified to the semi-finals as the winners of Pool II.
Both teams started the duel very carefully, as the stakes were so high in this match. In the first set there were many ups and downs from both sides. Turkey was in front through the initial stage, but then briefly Finland took control before the second technical time-out (16-15). However, Turkey was more focused in the final phase of the set and went ahead 1:0 (25-22).
In the beginning of the second set Lauri Jylhä of Finland went behind the serving line and lifted his team to an early 4-0 advantage. After Turkey’s time-out, the situation changed and the result was tied at 5-5. However, Finland went to the first technical time-out leading 8-6. After the break, Finland continued augmenting the gap and soon they had a six-point advantage (12-6). Turkey tried with a time-out once again, but this time it was too late to recover. Finland wrapped it up at 25-17 for 1:1 in sets.
The third set started with Finland as the better side going to the first technical break with an 8-6 lead. When the Finns went up 16-12 it looked like Turkey’s faith was sealed in this set. But, once again, the unpredictable Turkish team managed to get back into the match, and prompted a thrilling final stage of the set. Unfortunately, at 23-22 to Turkey, Mert Nevzat Günes sprained his ankle and had to leave the court.
However, the Turkish boys did not surrender, and it ended up as the longest set in the history of the Youth Boys’ European Championships (35-33). Before that, the record was 34-32 and it happened on two occasions. First time, Russia won the second set against Belgium 34-32 in Vienna in 2007 (bronze medal match), and after that
Turkey won the second set against Bulgaria with the same result in Ankara in 2011 (1st round of Pool II). The most interesting detail is that each and every one of these three records happened on the same date, April 16th!
However, Bulgaria narrowed its lag to one point (18-19), thus putting the pressure on the home side. Serbia responded swiftly, and wrapped up the set at 25-20.
The fourth set Bulgaria started better, as they went to the first technical break leading 8-5. Bulgaria successfully maintained the gap until the second technical time-out (16-13). Serbia was eager to close in, but could not find the right rhythm, and the match went into the tie-break.