Poland and Russia set for a battle of the giants in the grand finale of Youth European Champs
The Polish and the Russian machines ran over Finland and Belgium, respectively, in straight sets and set up a battle of the giants for European gold at 20:10 CET on Sunday evening. Before that, the squads of Pertti Honkanen and Steven Vanmedegael will face each other in a quest for the bronze.
Poland vs. Finland 3:0 (25-14, 25-23, 25-13)
68 minutes was all the time that Poland needed to overcome the Finnish resistance in the first semifinal in Laktaši. The team of Wieslaw Czaja maintained a perfect record of 18:0 in sets so far in the tournament after a convincing 3:0 victory over the boys of Pertti Honkanen. Captain Bartosz Bucko impressed with 23 points to become the best scorer of the match. 7 points were sufficient for Niko Kasimir Vuorinen to climb on top of Finland’s scorers’ list.
The Bartosz Bucko Show was most attractive in the first set as the Polish captain piled up 11 points. Finland found no arguments against its strong opponent and lost by 14-25 shaped up by Piotr Badura’s successful spike through the middle for the final point.
The second set was the most disputed one. The main reason: Poland again. Its players started making way too many mistakes and gave a chance to Finland to stay in contention almost throughout the set. After 23-23 however, Poland made sure not to let this one slip away and won the following two rallies to double the score in sets.
In set 3 Wieslaw Czaja’s boys once again showed a superb performance that ended at 25-13 with a spectacular ace by Aleksander Sliwka to mark the start of the Polish celebration.
Russia vs. Belgium 3:0 (25-11, 25-23, 25-20)
A similar story unfolded in the second semi final with the one major difference that the demolition work was concentrated mostly into the first set. The Russian Bears were able to swallow Belgium in three bytes, but they could have choked on the second and the third. Captain Victor Poletaev topped the scorers’ chart with 17 points. Lowie Stuer was the best scorer for Belgium with 11 points.
In the way of the Russian machine was not a nice place to be during the first set. The Belgian team was able to somehow survive and even score 11 points for the 19 minutes of play time.
After this catastrophic first set, however, Steven Vanmedegael’s boys found the strength to stand up to their strong rival. They stepped up their offensive efforts, their blocking and serving also started to add points to their tally. Between 5-5 and 22-22 the team of Alexander Karikov could not find a way to step ahead in the score. With the help of Thomas Konings’ prolific attacks, Belgium was even able to create a 3-point gap at 21-18. In the end, however, it was Russians’ fantastic blocking that made the difference in this set as they closed it at 25-23.
Although Russia had a huge psychological advantage on its side, Belgium did not surrender. It continued to put up a fight in the next set. As Russia also helped with some unforced errors, the Belgians were able to take the lead again, this time with an even more impressive 5-point difference at 12-7. But soon after it was Nikolai Chepura’s turn to serve for Russia. With 7 points in a row his team was able to overturn the score from 10-14 to 17-14 and then never looked back. Victor Poletaev’s powerful attack for 25-20 in the set sent Russia celebrating.
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