Bulgaria shock world No.3 Poland in Pool A
Cheered from the stands also by former high jumper Stefka Kostadinova, who is currently chairing the Bulgarian Olympic Committee and is a gold medalist from the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the players mentored by Nayden Naydenov scored their second win of the tournament after beating Great Britain on Sunday. The real man of the match was opposite Tsvetan Sokolov, who amassed a total of 28 points including 4 aces and attacked with a terrific – 24 out of his 44 attempts were successful – consistency to stun Poland’s block-and-defense system.
The first set was a race to the end; the teams opened with many unforced errors, particularly on wayward serves and straightforward spikes, but that was until Viktor Yosifov aced to bring the score to 18-16 for Bulgaria. The ace seemed to get the Bulgarian team on track and largely silenced the many raucous Polish supporters, but more importantly it gave them the lead in the set that they did not relinquish.
The teams traded points throughout the second set, with neither team able to form a gap, but it was Bulgaria who scraped the set win after Poland had saved multiple set points.
Poland finally got on track in the third set, establishing a four-point lead at 8-4 that they were able to protect and then increase. The Poles won the set 25-13, finally giving themselves some momentum and a chance to get back into the match.
In the fourth, Bulgaria established a four-point lead early with some great defence. For the majority of the set, Poland’s heavy hitters were unable to get the ball past the Bulgarian diggers, particularly libero, Teodor Salparov, who finished the match with a 2.75 digs per set average, to lead all players. Despite a late fourth set comeback by Poland, Bulgaria was able to hold on for the win that puts them on top of Pool A.
In the next round of play Poland takes on Great Britain while Bulgaria faces Argentina on Thursday.