Russia and Netherlands grab top spots in preliminaries of European Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament
Ankara, Turkey, January 7, 2016 – Russia grabbed the top spot in Pool B with a sweep of their matches, and then Italy improved its win-record to 2-1 to earn the last semifinal ticket, while The Netherlands reigned in Pool A as they eliminated Croatia in the process of completing the matches in the preliminary round on the fourth day of the European Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament at Baskent Volleyball Hall on Thursday.
Russia sustained their winning run in Pool B as they crushed Belgium 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 25-17) and enter the semifinal against hosts Turkey with strong momentum. The Russian scoring duo of Natalia Obmochaeva and Tatiana Kosheleva notched 20 and 15 points, respectively, while Lise Van Hecke logged 15 points for Belgium.
Russia paced Belgium early in the match as Kosheleva and Obmochaeva punctured the Belgian defence. Kosheleva and Obmochaeva became a constant threat as they strong spikes that led to victories in the first two sets at 25-19 and 25-22. Although Belgium fought hard in the second frame, Russia’s dominance on court prevailed as they conquered the third set 25-17 with more force.
Italy endured another nail-biting five-set match with a 3-2 (25-18, 25-22, 22-25, 19-25, 15-13) win over Poland in Pool B. Italy needed to win the match to guarantee the spot in the semifinals and youngster Paola Egonu helped them do that with a 23-point performance. Poland’s Anna Werblinska scored 18 points to help her side but fell short as Valentina Diouf and Martina Guiggi also brought in good numbers for Italy with 17 and 13 markers, respectively.
Italy had a promising start with back-to-back set-wins at 25-18 and 25-22, but Poland countered in the succeeding two sets at 25-22 and 25-19 to force a tiebreaker. Poland trailed Italy in the final set, but the latter could not get the break to end the match in their favour, as the Poland still had some tricks in their bag and called a challenge that reversed a 15-11 score to 14-12. Poland gave Italy another scare as they bridged the gap 14-13 but the Italian managed to nail the final point for the 15-13 match win.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands came up with another victory to take Pool A leadership after they defeated Croatia 3-0 (25-19, 25-17, 25-23). Dutch player Lonneke Sloetjes topped all scorers with 23 points.
Croatia led in the early stages of the first set but Netherlands levelled the score at 11-all. The Netherlands were favoured in the long rallies that resulted to a first set win 25-19. The Netherlands’ offence fired up as they scored on a set of services that got them through the second set 25-17. The Dutch players tried to secure the match but the Croatians fought hard and succeeded to stay in the game as they levelled the score at 21-all. The Netherlands still found a way to extinguish Croatia’s scorching run that ended the set and match at 25-23.
The Netherlands will face Italy in the first semifinal match at 16:30 local time, while Russia will play hosts Turkey in the second semifinal match at 19:30 on Friday, January 8.