Russia claim fifth gold at Youth European Championship
CEV Senior Vice President Aleksandar Boričić presented the cup and the gold medals to the winners, who stayed unbeaten throughout the tournament. Belgium celebrated with the bronze medals after a thrilling five-setter against Finland. Turkey defeated France by 3:1 to claim the fifth place as Italy outplayed Austria by the same score for the seventh place and for the last ticket to the 2013 European Youth Olympic Festival coming up this summer in Utrecht (NED).
The top six of the Championship qualify for the World Championship coming up later this summer in Tijuana and Mexicali, Mexico.
Poland vs. Russia 1:3 (16-25, 18-25, 25-22, 21-25)
As the crowd in Laktaši filled up the stands of the splendid competition hall and these nearly 2’000 spectators, among which the President of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik, created a fantastic atmosphere for the final games of the European Championship, Russia established its domination over Poland in the match for the gold by winning 3:1. Victor Poletaev was the top scorer of this duel with 25 points for the winning team. Captain Bartosz Bucko and teammate Artur Szalpuk made 20 points each for the team of Poland.
The first set stayed in equilibrium through 11-11. With Ilia Vlasov serving, Russia was able to take the edge by scoring 6 points in a row and never looked back. Despite Poland’s good serve reception, Russia was able to score 3 aces in this set. With its block assisting with 4 points and Poland helping with 9 unforced errors, Alexander Karikov’s team went way ahead for the final 25-16 to ruin the opponent’s impeccable record in the tournament.
In the second set Russia also started to receive well and hence its offensive efforts started paying off with many points. The set started with a 5-0 Russian gold rush as the team was able to break away by as many as 11 points at 19-8. This was enough for a comfortable finish of 25-18.
Poland fought back in the third set. With substitute Artur Szalpuk now among the main seven players of the team and captain Bartosz Bucko also on fire, Wieslaw Czaja’s team stepped up its spiking and serving efforts and took control on the court. A block-out by Szalpuk shaped up the final 25-22 in Poland’s favor.
With Victor Poletaev really flying (in Russian ‘polet’ means ‘flight’) in the next part of the match, Russia was quick to take charge of the scoreboard at the beginning of the set, but Poland would not give in that easily. It was able to reverse a 5-point setback to tie at 8-8 and even to step ahead by 12-10. As the lead went back and forth a couple of more times, the last time the scoreboard was levelled was at 20-20. Four consecutive rallies won by Russia brought the game to championship point and one rally down the road the Russian setter Pavel Pankov saw an opportunity to smash the ball on the floor to stamp the gold for his team.
Finland vs. Belgium 2:3 (19-25, 25-20, 25-22, 19-25, 10-15)
A five-set drama unfolded in the bronze medal match as Belgium eventually claimed its right to be on the podium at the closing ceremony. Thomas Konings contributed 24 points to the victory to become the top scorer of the match. Captain Sakari Mäkinen with 22 points was the best scorer for Finland.
The first set was even through the first technical time-out, after which Belgium established its control on the court to break the equilibrium. The reception was working well for setter Sander Depovere to spread out nicely the Belgian attacks that produced the necessary points for winning by 25-19.
Finland stormed off to a 5-0 and 8-1 lead at the start of the second set. As both teams tried to increase the pressure with their serves, the team of Pertti Honkanen greatly reduced the number of unforced errors and was able to widen the gap to as many as 10 points at 19-9. Belgium fought back as Arno Van De Velde served 6 times in a row to narrow it down to 2 points at 19-21. However, the Finns stayed on their toes to claim the set by 25-20.
Belgium scored 4 in a row for 12-9 to take a 3-point lead in the third set and then maintain it through 22-19. It seemed to be well on its way to winning the set, but not according to the Finns. With Antti Ropponen behind the serving line, the almost error-free team of Pertti Honkanen showed an excellent blocking performance, mainly through its captain Sakari Mäkinen, to score an unbelievable 6 points in a row and finish it off beautifully with an ace for 25-22.
It was time for the Belgians to show off their blocking skills as their team established its domination in the fourth set. They piled up a large enough 10-point advantage at 23-13 to keep them safe through the rest of the set as the Finns fought back to narrow their lag to the final 25-19.
A 6-0 lead for Belgium at the start of the tie-breaker already presented a clue as to who the bronze medal winner would be. But once again, the Finns showed no intention to surrender. Gradually they were able to return into the set and reduce the gap to only a point at 8-9 and 9-10. But then the Belgian block put a stop to it all as it brought the team to match point. A mistake by Finland for the final 10-15 sent Steven Vanmedegael’s team celebrating.
France vs. Turkey 1:3 (23-25, 22-25, 25-23, 17-25)
Turkey ended up in fifth place in the final ranking. The boys of Ali Kazim Hidayetoglu found themselves more motivated to win the classification match than their opponents from France and emerged victorious after four sets. Two players got on top of the scorers’ chart as Yasin Aydin from Turkey and Timothee Carle put down 20 points each in this game.
The first set saw several changes in the lead, but after 16-16 Turkey took over. It was Turkey’s blocking that made the difference in this set before a powerful spike by Emincan Kocabas closed it at 25-23. With improved serving the Turks were ahead of France pretty much throughout the second set and an opponent’s serving error helped end it at 22-25. In the third set, Slimane Belmadi’s guys greatly increased their spiking efficiency. Timothee Carle was unstoppable as he scored 9 points for France, but then it was captain Luka Basic that put the ball on the floor for the final 25-23. Set 4 was all about Turkey. Its blocking was once again on a very high level. Yasin Aydin scored 7 points in this set, including the last one, as he slammed the ball for 25-17.
Italy vs. Austria 3:1 (25-12, 23-25, 25-14, 25-13)
Italy became the last team to qualify for the 2013 European Youth Olympic Festival in the Netherlands as it claimed seventh place in the final ranking of the European Championship. In a direct fight for tickets to Utrecht, the Italians defeated Austria by 3-1, leaving Nina Sawatzki’s team in eighth place. Austria’s Paul Buchegger once again showed off his scoring abilities as he made 20 points in this game. Tiziano Mazzone contributed 18 points to Italy’s victory while Simone Giannelli impressed with 5 aces.
In three of the four sets Italy completely outplayed the opponent to manage this well-deserved victory. Austria could not cope well with the serve reception and allowed the Italians to tally as many as 11 aces in this match. The Austrians were able to show their game only in the second set when they performed much better on court to open a 7-point gap. Gradually Italy was able to come back and tie at 21-21, but Buchegger spiked successfully for 25-23 to close Austria’s only set in this match.
12. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Most Valuable Player: Victor Poletaev (Russia)
Best Scorer: Bartosz Bucko (Poland)
Best Receiver: Rafal Szymura (Poland)
Best Setter: Sander Depovere (Belgium)
Best Spiker: Bartosz Bucko (Poland)
Best Blocker: Ilia Vlasov (Russia)
Best Server: Pavel Pankov (Russia)
Best Libero: Kacper Piechocki (Poland)
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