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Poland, Russia, Germany sizzle in European Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament opener

Poland needed four sets to overcome Serbia, while Russia and hosts Germany won in straight sets on opening day of the European Men's Olympic Qualification Tournament in Berlin
Berlin, Germany, January 5, 2016 – Olympic gold medallists Russia and host Germany gained straight-set victories, while world champions Poland won in a four-setter on the opening day of the European Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament at Max-Schmeling-Halle on Tuesday.

Poland stood their ground to achieve a 3-1 (22-25, 25-18, 25-23, 25-21) win over Serbia in Pool A. Poland’s Bartosz Kurek led all scorers with 22 points, while Aleksandr Atanasijevic posted 19 markers for the opposing side. The world champions had more advantage in attacks 46-40 and in aces 7-2, four of which came from Kurek.

Poland set the pace in the opening set but Serbia surged with a 23-20 advantage that shaped up a final rush that favoured the latter 25-22. Kurek’s heroics helped Poland to build a comfortable lead and 25-18 win in the second set. The Serbians did not give up in the third and fourth sets and challenged the world champions in every play, but Kurek’s game was once again instrumental as Poland edged Serbia 25-23 in the third set. Serbia led in the fourth set but Poland overcame the deficit and raced to secure set and match 25-21.

In the other Pool A match, Germany pulled off a tough straight-set (28-26, 25-19, 26-24) home win over Belgium. Gyorgy Grozer steered Germany to victory with 19 points, while Belgium’s Sam Deroo produced 15 points on a losing effort.

Germany trailed Belgium in the first set but levelled at 23-all, until an attack from Philipp Collin and an ace from Lukas Kampa sealed the first set victory in favour of the home side 28-26. Germany found their rhythm and paced the second set 25-19, with Grozer stepping up on offence. Belgium led in the third set but failed to sustain their momentum as Grozer fired an ace and an attack to secure victory for the German side 26-24.

Meanwhile, Maxim Mikhaylov fired 13 of his 15 points from the attack line, as he aided reigning Olympic champions Russia to a 3-0 (25-17, 25-16, 25-19) win over Finland in Pool B. Olli-Pekka Ojansivu scored 11 points for the losing side.

Russia dominated the first two sets at 25-17 and 25-16, as they were in sync on all fronts. Russia drew powerful plays from their hitters, which pestered the defenders of Finland. Finally, Finland forced the Russians to commit some errors but the latter regained control and eventually closed the match at 25-19.

On Wednesday, Finland will look to bounce back when they meet Bulgaria in the first match at 15:00 local time, while Russia will compete against FIVB Volleyball World League winners France at 20:30 in Pool B; while Germany will try to earn their second victory in Pool A against Serbia at 18:00.


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