Hungary comes from behind to upset Israel on last round of play in Ra’anana
The teams were nevertheless motivated to play for extra glory but in the end Israel suffered their first setback in the tournament as they dissipated a 2:0 lead to eventually lose to Hungary at the tie-break (25-23, 26-24, 18-25, 20-25, and 12-15). Switzerland also lost their last match of the tournament to Greece (1:3) while Latvia edged Montenegro 3:2 as these teams were searching for their first win in Ra’anana. The third and last stage of the qualification process scheduled for January 3-5 will see Israel, Hungary, and Switzerland join three out of five round robin tournaments – the venues will be announced soon – whose winners will make it to the 2014 World Champs in Italy together with the two second ranked teams with the best score across all pools.
To open the program of the last day in Ra’anana, Latvia played Montenegro and won the opening set after a very close race (27-25). Things changed completely in the second set where the players from Montenegro stormed to a 17:9 lead and even though Latvia fought their way back, they still could not prevent their opponent from going for the 1:1 (25-23). Montenegro showed that same good momentum also in the third set going up 10:6 and keeping control of the game all the way through the final 25-22. Latvia responded in the fourth set where it opened the gap after a close start (16:11) and eventually rushed to the final 25-20 to call for the tie-break. Latvia opened strong there (10:7) but Montenegro clawed back and a breath-taking money time came to a close only as the players from Latvia sealed the final 18-16 on the scoreboard for their first win in the tournament. Inese Jursone paced Latvia in their winning effort with 21 points while Montenegro’s star Tatjana Bokan recorded a match-high 24 points.
As they had already secured their ticket to the next round, the Swiss players caught a very slow start in their match with Greece and their opponents quickly pocketed the opening set with the score of 25-16. Greece set the pace of the game also in the second set (11:8, 16:15) and claimed a 2:0 lead (25-21). Switzerland finally woke up in the third set going up 16:10 at the second technical time-out before wrapping it up at 25-20. That was all the Swiss could show for the day as Greece controlled the game from the start up to the end of the fourth set (25-19) to claim a well-deserved 3:1 victory. Eleni Kiosi and Sofia Kosma registered 15 points apiece for Greece while Laura Unternährer of Switzerland topped all scorers with 16. Greece finished the tournament in fourth place being hence eliminated from the run for a spot to represent Europe at the 2014 World Championships in Italy.
The last match of the tournament started pretty well for the local heroines of Israel who were able to claim the first and second set though after a couple of very close final rushes (25-23 and 26-24 respectively). In the second, while cheered by more than 600 fans, the hosts had even dissipated a 10:3 lead so that their opponents could almost complete a terrific comeback whereby they had made their way up to 23 all. Hungary found their best play in the third set (25-18) and opened the gap straight after the second technical time-out also in the fourth with their 25-20 calling for a tie-break. The guests from Hungary did not lose composure there, set the pace of the game (8:6) and did not look back anymore making it to the final 15-12 whereby they secured also first place in the final standing of the tournament. Renata Sandor scored 30 points including three aces for Hungary while Anna Velikiy paced Israel with 18.