Poland and Czech Republic keep CEV Girls' Youth World Championship semifinal hopes alive
Czech Republic 3, Greece 1 (25-21, 20-25, 29-27, 26-24)
Strong mental skills and effective attacking were the keys to the Czech team's second victory of the tournament.
Anna Sucha was the player of the match scoring 24 points, including four aces. Greece had 19 block winners.
The two teams played consistently in the opening set where the Czech Republic maintained a narrow advantage with scores of 16-15 and 21-20. At the crucial moment, Michaela Mlejnkova, who scored nine points in the first set, led the Czechs to a hard-earned 1-0 advantage.
Greece overcame a slow start in the second set with some impressive spikes and several block winners from Ioanna Gkountimenko, which helped the Greeks pull back to 14-14 as the Czechs started to commit errors. A three-point run moved the scoreboard forward to 21-16 for Greece and captain Olga Strantzali came out with a cracking spike to even the score with a 25-20 win.
The Greek girls continued their good form at the start of the third set thanks to a couple of smashes by Anthi Vasilantonaki. The Czech coach Leos Chalupa sent in second setter Marie Kurkova for Katerina Valkova early in the third set, but the Czechs couldn’t stop the Greeks’ momentum. However, four set balls were not enough for Greece to close it out. Czech opposite Anna Sucha started her one-woman show with seven consecutive winners to make it 29-27 and turn the tables in the Czech Republic’s favour.
Even though Greece never gave up in the fourth set, the Czechs showed their mental strength when it counted. After 116 minutes of play, Mlejnkova converted the Czechs’ third match point to seal the win.
Italy 3, Slovenia 0 (25-11, 25-14, 25-20)
2011 runner-up Italy beat Slovenia in straight sets for their third straight win.
Anastasia Guerra scored 17 points for the “squadra azzurra,” while Elisa Zanette added nine.
Italy started strongly, jumping to a 16-8 lead in the opening set. The young Italians steadily pushed forward, dominating the match with powerful serves and solid block work. Slovenia coach Joze Casar called timeout twice, but could not stop Italy's power.
The pattern of the match didn’t change in the second set. Slovenia’s libero Maja Pahor suffered as Italy’s servers and spikers used her as their principal target. Guerra took Italy to a 2-0 lead with four winning spikes and two blocks.
Casar made several changes at the beginning of the third set but his players failed to stop the momentum of the determined Italians. Giulia Angelina brought up match point at 24-15 for the unstoppable Italians by hammering the Mikasa down the left line. Slovenia saved five match points but couldn’t prevent Italy’s third win in a row.
Poland 3, Montenegro 1 (25-20, 25-14, 22-25, 25-13)
Despite dropping a set, Poland cruised to victory over Montenegro in Monday’s final Pool I match in Bar. The hosts were not stable enough in service reception to worry the Polish stars.
The best scorer of the match was Poland’s Karolina Pisla with 15 points. Nevena Pejovic booked 12 for Montenegro. Poland had 20 service winners in the match.
Montenegro had their moments, particularly at the end of the first set. Captain Marija Donovic set up several effective combinations at the net and Pejovic helped her with razor-sharp serves. However, it was not enough to disturb Poland. Poland coach Grzegorz Kosatka brought in power hitter Malwina Smarzek who immediately sent a missile through the Montenegro defence. An Aleksandra Kazala service winner ended the opening set 25-20 for Poland.
The storyboard stayed pretty much the same in the second set. Poland displayed a powerful offensive game, while Montenegro struggled in reception.
In the third set, Kosatka gave several reserve players the chance to show their talent and they turned things around from 11-17 to 25-22, causing deafening cheers in the Topolica Sports Hall.
But Poland found their game again in the fourth set with Smarzek on fire. Magdalena Damaske ended the match after 99 minutes with a service winner.
The preliminary phase of the 2013 CEV Girls' Youth Volleyball European Championship is split into two pools of six teams with the top two from each pool advancing to the semifinals. Pool I comprises hosts Montenegro, Italy, Slovenia, Greece, the Czech Republic and Poland. Pool II sees hosts Serbia up against Russia, Germany, France, Turkey and The Netherlands.
The tournament’s final ranking will determine the six teams that will represent Europe at this year’s FIVB Girls' U18 World Championship in Thailand, as well as the eight nations taking part at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Utrecht.
The matches of preliminary Pool I as well as all semifinal and final matches are available live and for free at www.laola1.tv.
Pool II matches are streamed on the official website of the Volleyball Federation of Serbia at http://eng.ossrb.org
For quotes and additional info, please visit www.cev.lu.