Russia's blocking masterclass earns Men's U23 bronze
After dominating most of the set and giving themselves set points at 20-15, Bulgaria almost managed to lose it as Russia went on a run of six points on captain Dmitry Kovalev's tricky serves to move 21-20 in front. A Jani Jeliazkov spike stopped the charge and and then Bulgaria's defence did the rest with middle blocker Ventsislav Ragin leading them to a 24-22 win.
Russia gained control of the second set right from the start, forcing Bulgaria head coach Dragan Ivanov into an early timeout to re-focus his players. Some Russia errors helped even up the match, but Bulgaria had difficulty containing the attacking and blocking of Russia opposite Bogdan Glivenko, who was not only key to a total of seven blocking points for the set, but also scored some important spikes as Russia took the set 22-20 to level the match.
Russia's blocking continued to cause problems for Bulgaria in a long third set, with all players contributing points. Russia had a three-point lead at the technical timeout, but Bulgaria pulled it back with some strong serving from Jeliazkov and captain Nikolay Penchev that helped them to a series of set points before another Kovalev block and an Ivan Komarov spike gave Russia the set 27-25 and a 2-1 lead.
Russia were just ahead from early in the fourth set and maintained that lead until the final part of the set when Russia moved away to take the medal with a 21-15 win. Given their outstanding blocking display, it was appropriate that their final three points all came off net blocks.
Glivenko (6), Kovalev (5) and wing spiker Leonid Shchadilov (5) were the biggest contributors to a big tournament-leading total of 25 blocking points. Glivenko's total helped him to 22 points as the match's top scorer.
Despite Russia's suffocating net defence, Jeliazkov was still a reliable spiking option for Bulgaria and finished with 17 points, closely followed by team-mate Zlatan Yoardanov with 15.