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Six European countries qualify to FIVB U18 World Championship

Poland celebrate their outstanding 3-2 gold medal win against Italy. At the end, it was all about mental power.

Bar, Montenegro, April 7, 2013 – Poland, Italy, Turkey, Serbia, Greece and Slovenia have secured the six CEV vacancies to this year’s FIVB Girls' Youth World Championship in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand. The top eight nations in the final ranking have also qualified for the European Youth Olympic Festival in Utrecht, Netherlands, which includes the organisers, The Netherlands.

Poland claimed their second gold medal in the history of the CEV Girls’ Youth Volleyball European Championship by overpowering Italy (21-25, 17-25, 25-19, 27-25, 18-16) in electrifying gold medal battle in Bar, Montenegro.

Titleholder Turkey lived up to expectations by taking their fourth consecutive medal at CEV/FIVB Youth and Junior competitions as they outclassed Serbia 25-22, 25-23, 25-15 in the bronze medal  match. 

Poland versus Italy 3-2 (21-25, 17-25, 25-19, 27-25, 18-16) 

Poland claimed their second gold medal in the history of the CEV Girls’ Youth Volleyball European Championship as they saved five match balls against Italy and eventually pulled through 3-2 after five hard-fought sets in the last match of the tournament on Sunday. 

The world’s number 7 team won the match (21-25, 17-25, 25-19, 27-25, 18-16) in 120 minutes in front of 1,000 fans. 

Poland’s Malwina Smarzek was the game’s top scorer with 21 points, while Sara Bonifacio gained 18 kills for Italy, including 10 blocks. 

The match started with Italy getting an early four-point advantage at 11-7 as they covered the court well with excellent block-defense work. The East Europeans slowly rolled out their engines with Kornelia Moskwa and Magdalena Damaske working effectively to reduce the gap to two points at 16-18. Neither was  ready to  give up their chance to walk away a winner. Italy’s middle blocker Sara Bonifacio and libero Marianna Maggipinto combined their efforts to take the first set in favour of Italy at 25-21. Poland’s top scorer Malwina Smarzek  secured only one point in the initial set. 

The second set remained a one-way affair as the Poles, falling quickly behind, couldn’t find any solution to outfox the impressive “squadra azzurra”. At the second technical timeout, the Italians led with a comfortable eight-point advantage. Another inspiring block by Bonifacio moved her team ahead to 18-10. With their attack struggling, Poland made three successive offensive errors and trailed all the way as the Italians picked up the second set with a sharp spike from Anna Danesi. 

Down by two sets, Poland fought back bravely.  They displayed tight floor defence, allowing hitters to perform more attack strategies  to break  Italy’s solid defensive system. Power hitter Smarzek scored eight points in the third period and with the 11 errors made by the Italians, Poland was able to overcome their opponents by levelling the score at one set each with a win of 25-19. 

Sensing an opportunity the Poles were determined to take quick control of the fourth set before the first technical break and performed much better than they did in the previous set. The Italians, however, drew level at 13-13. It was well expected that this set would turn into a point-by-point show down, which provided some engaging volleyball for the enthusiastic crowd. Both sides showed their strong will although neither one could build a lead advantage until 21-21. Danesi and Alice Degradi brought up two match points for Italy at 24-22 but Smarzek and Magdalena Damaske fired back to turn the tables at 24-25. Italy couldn’t react as Giulia Angelina tipped the ball out of bounds to make it two sets to two. 

Italy executed better offense to take an early advantage in the final set. But Poland's winning spirit helped to keep a tight hold on their lead and they eventually took the set at 12-11. Poland’s mental skills proved valuable for them in the end as they saved three more Italian match balls  making for a thrilling fifth set, which they won 18-16 to take gold at the 2013 CEV Girls’ Youth Volleyball European Championship. 

“It’s unbelievable what happened tonight. I can’t put it into words. My girls are completely crazy,”  said Poland’s coach, Grzegorz Kosatka after the match.

An excited team captain Paulina Baldyga said, “We worked very hard and showed great fighting spirit. In the end, it was all about mental power. Our dream has come true.” 

The mood was understandably subdued on the Italian side as coach Luca Pieragnoli tried to take stock of events. “We gave Poland the chance to come back with poor serves in the crucial phases of the match. Finally we paid dearly for that lack of experience,” he said.

His feeling was mirrored by team captain, Ofelia Malinov who said, “We had our destiny in our hands, but couldn’t conclude. Congratulations to Poland, they never gave up.” 

Turkey versus Serbia 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-15) 

Titleholder Turkey lived up to expectations by taking their fourth consecutive medal at a CEV and FIVB event as they outclassed Serbia 25-22, 25-23, 25-15 in today’s bronze medal clash at the 2013 CEV Girls’ Youth Volleyball European Championship. 

Turkey finished the match with 37% positive receptions, while Serbia had only 22% and 19 direct mistakes. 

Pelin Aroguz scored 19 points to lead the game while Sara Lozo booked 11 kills for Serbia. 

After a 20-all score in the first set, Turkey started to take the upper hand and pulled away while Serbia struggled with poor service reception. Captain Arelya Karasoy added another service winner to move the scoreboard to 23-20 for Turkey. Serbia answered with two missiles from the right side but couldn’t prevent Su Zent from blocking for a 25-22 Turkey set win. 

The Serbian girls found their rhythm and took the lead away from their opponents in the second set,  but Turkey  regained their advantage into the second technical break 16-14. Turkey then wrapped up five out of the next seven points to enlarge the lead to 21-16. With some spectacular spikes from Aroguz, the Turkish team won the set at 25-23. 

The third set saw  the Serbian team make a valiant recovery at the beginning, with Sara Lozo and Bojana Milenkovic smashing home to fire the team 7-4 up and forcing Turkey off for a timeout. However, Serbia just could not continue the momentum while Rida Erlalelitepe contributed two points to help  Turkey pull  away with a score of 16-14 at the second technical timeout. It then became a one-team show  as Turkey booked six consecutive points and never looked back until 25-15. 

Turkey’s  coach Catma Sahin said, “We  lost an  intense match yesterday, but today we played very well. Turkish volleyball goes upwards and I would like to congratulate my players and staff for their hard work.” 

“This was a very important match for us. We played very well. We are happy to win bronze and I would like to congratulate all my teammates,”  said Turkey’s captain Arelya Karasoy.

“Unfortunately we lost the match. The main problem was the lack of experience of my players but probably there is also a sort of complex my players have when they play with Turkey. We lost all three matches we played against them,” said Serbia’s  coach Marijana Boricic.

Jelena Vignjevic, Serbia’s captain then said,  “I would like to congratulate the Turkish team for their victory today. We had the chance to win the first and third set but couldn’t pull through. Nevertheless, I’m happy we made it to the semis.” 

Best Players: 

MVP: Anastasia Guerra (Italy)
Best Spiker: Pelin Aroguz (Turkey)
Best Blocker: Hande Baladin (Turkey)
Best Server: Maja Aleksic (Serbia)
Best Libero: Marianna Maggipinto (Italy) 

Best Receiver: Pola Nowakowska (Poland)
Best Setter: Eva Mori (Slovenia)

Best Scorer: Anthi Vasilantonaki (Greece) 

Final Ranking

1. Poland
2. Italy

3. Turkey
4. Serbia

5. Greece

6. Slovenia

7. Germany

8. Russia

9. The Netherlands

10. The Czech Republic

11. France

12. Montenegro 

The FIVB Girls' U18 World Championship will take place from July 26 to August 4 in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand. The European Youth Olympic Festival in Utrecht, Netherlands will be held from July 14 to 19.

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