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Russia top Pool II to qualify for Youth European Champ semis

With their 3:1 victory over France on Tuesday Russia's boys made sure they finish on top of the charts in preliminary Pool II

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.
The top six of the Youth European Championship will qualify for the 2013 FIVB Volleyball Boys’ U19 World Championship coming up later this summer in Tijuana and Mexicali, Mexico.

Russia vs. France 3:1 (25-17, 25-14, 23-25, 25-15)

In Tuesday’s opening duel in Pool II, Russia had no major problems overpowering France by 3:1 (25-17, 25-14, 23-25, 25-15). Russia’s Victor Poletaev topped the scorers’ chart with 24 points, including 2 aces and 3 blocking kills, while Stephen Boyer was the best scorer in the losing team with 15 points, including 3 aces.

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.

Turkey vs. Finland 3:2 (25-22, 17-25, 35-33, 18-25, 15-5)

In the second Pool II match of day 4, in an epic encounter, Turkey edged Finland 3:2 (25-22, 17-25, 35-33, 18-25, 15-5) and remained in the hunt for the second place and a spot in the semi-finals. Turkey’s Yasin Aydin topped the scorers’ chart with 24 points, followed by Yigit Gülmezoglu with 23. On the losing side, Lauri Jylhä was the best scorer with 18 points.

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!
After losing the epic third set, Finland was determined to fight back. They got off to an early 13-8 lead, and that proved to be enough to secure a calm finish and force the tie-breaker.  In the fifth set Finland ran out of gas as Turkey stormed to a 15-5 victory.

Bulgaria vs. Serbia 3:2 (25-22, 20-25, 25-27, 25-17, 15-12)

Tuesday’s last Pool II match featured the home side Serbia facing Bulgaria. In a heavily disputed encounter Bulgaria defeated the reigning European champions by 3-2 (25-22, 20-25, 25-27, 25-17, and 15-12) and denied them the first victory at 2013 CEV Youth Volleyball European Championship - Boys. Bulgaria’s Milen Iliev topped the scorers’ chart with an impressive 32 points, including 4 aces, while Lazar Dodi? was the best scorer in the losing team with 18.
After initial assessment of each other’s strength, Bulgaria made the first move and went five points ahead before the second technical time-out (16-11). The Serbian players reacted reducing the gap to just two points (19-21), but could not complete the turnaround. Bulgaria routinely brought this set to an end at 25-22.
Through the first part of the second set Serbia was slightly in front leading by a couple of points. By the second technical break the home side expanded the lead to 16-11. After the pause, Serbia continued to defend well and maintained the gap for a while.

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.
In the beginning of the third set, at 3-1 to Serbia, Mihail Tsvetanov of Bulgaria got injured and had to leave the court.
That was a pretty big blow for the Bulgarian side, but they did not surrender. On the contrary, they immediately turned the score in their favor at 5-4. Both sides were pretty evenly matched in these moments. However, after a great battle for every point, the home side finally managed to get away to a four-point lead at 14-10. Bulgaria struggled in these moments, as Serbia was firmly ahead. The home side expanded the lead to 18-12, but once again could not finish, and Bulgaria seriously threatened closing the gap at 22-23. Bulgaria’s Milen Iliev then tied the result at 24-24 with an ace, but after a couple of points Serbia responded with an ace of their own (by Nedjeljko Radovic) for the final 27-25 and 2:1 in sets.

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.
In the beginning of the fifth set Bulgaria tightened up their defense and Serbia struggled to score. However, through the mid-section of the set, the home side managed to tie the result at 8-8. After a time-out called by Bulgaria’s head coach Ivan Halachev, his team went two points ahead (10-8). Now, Serbia called for a break, and then immediately equalized at 10-10. After yet another time-out for Bulgaria, Serbia again went down 10-12. This time the home side could not recover and they booked the fourth loss out of four matches played.


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