Luxembourg, May 26, 2018. Bulgaria and the Czech Republic registered their third victories in the third leg of the 2018 CEV Volleyball Golden European League – Women. In matches played on Saturday, they beat Azerbaijan and Slovakia, respectively, to top their pools. Finland stopped Hungary’s winning run with a 3-1 win at home. Croatia beat France for their second victory in Pool B.
Bulgaria vs. Azerbaijan 3-1 (17-25, 25-17, 25-14, 25-21)
• The battle for the first place in Pool A between Bulgaria and Azerbaijan was very even and competitive from the very first point.
• In the opening set the women coached by Faig Garayev managed to stop the Bulgarian attacks and despite some errors in reception they won it by 25-17.
• The second set was a completely different story. Serving strong and led by Gergana Dimitrova in attack, the Lionesses won it by 25-17.
• Ivan Petkov’s side continued to play pretty well and without making any easy mistakes won the third set by 25-14.
• In the fourth part Hristina Ruseva made the difference at the net with some killing blocks and despite the early four-point advantage for Azerbaijan, Bulgaria won it 25-21.
• Gergana Dimitrova finished as the top scorer with 21 points. Silvana Chausheva added 19 for the winners. The captain of Bulgaria Hristina Ruseva was brilliant at the net and finished with 13 points including eight blocks.
• Yelyzaveta Samadova and Katerina Zhidkova scored 14 points each for Azerbaijan.
• On May 30 the two teams will meet again in Baku. The match will start at 18:00 local time.
Ivan Petkov, coach of Bulgaria: “I’m happy with this result! We achieved three victories at home and it was our main goal in the first part of the tournament. Now we will travel for our next matches with much more confidence and we hope to qualify for the Final Four in Budapest.”
Hristina Ruseva, captain of Bulgaria: “We achieved our goal – three matches, three wins and first place in the pool. Now we need to prepare well for our away matches. Our first opponent is Azerbaijan. It will be difficult for sure, but we are ready and our main goal is clear – a spot in the Finals in Budapest!”
Olena Hasanova, player of Azerbaijan: “We were prepared for this match both mentally and physically, but it was our first match in the tournament away from home and maybe we didn’t manage to control our emotions. In the first set we played really well but in the next three parts we didn’t play well in defence and blocking. It was our main problem and we lost.”
Krystsina Yagubova, player of Azerbaijan: “It was a very tough and really important match for both teams. We made some mistakes in reception and lost today, but now we will host Bulgaria and will try to achieve a better result.”
Finland vs. Hungary 3-1 (25-19, 23-25, 25-16, 25-19)
• Finland has now won two of their three matches in the 2018 Golden European League. Only in the second set Finland had difficulties with Hungary.
• Finland’s three wing spikers attacked very well. Piia Korhonen scored 19 points, Salla Karhu 17 and Pauliina Vilponen 16.
• The best scorer of the Hungarian team was Gréta Szakmary with 18 points.
• There were 2,027 Finnish fans watching the exciting match.
• This was for Finland only the sixth win in 21 matches played against Hungary.
Tapio Kangasniemi, coach of Finland: “We played a good match on a high level. Our train is going to the right direction and we are finding the right ways to play. The home audience gave us also a great support. Our goal has been from the start to win the pool, but there are six matches and we have now won two out of three.”
Jan De Brandt, coach of Hungary: “Congratulations to Finland on a great match. They served really well and took great defences. They also made a lot of blocks. I thought the game would change after we won the second set, but it didn’t. Finland played good attacks and we didn’t find the right way to block them.”
Croatia vs. France 3-1 (25-19, 25-21, 18-25, 27-25)
• The Croatian victory started with a 25-19 win in the first set, which was not as easy as expected against the young team of France.
• The visiting team took advantage of the many Croatian mistakes in the second set leading 13-11, but the home team found their way to win another set.
• The host team continued displaying a rather poor game in the third set, and this time France punished them winning their first set in the 2018 edition of the Golden European League.
• The most important was the fourth set, where France led all the time, but in a dramatic finish Croatia pulled out a 3-1 victory.
• Samanta Fabris of Croatia had a fantastic game with 31 points.
Samanta Fabris, player of Croatia: “We really needed this win after a poor match in Hungary. Today wasn’t so good, but I am happy that we won.”
Félix Andre, coach of France: “Today we played our best game in the Golden European League this far. Croatia was better in the first two sets, but I regret the most the fourth set, because I thought we would win. Anyway, we showed we can and I think we will be better in the next matches.”
Belarus vs. Spain 1-3 (21-25, 25-11, 23-25, 16-25)
• The team of Spain seized their first victory in the 2018 #EuroVolleyW after prevailing 3-1 over Belarus. The players around head coach Pascual Saurin collected their first three points in the competition in a match marked by interesting rallies and intense play. Although they lost the second part with a 14-point difference, Spain came back strong and emerged victorious.
• The first set started with a point-for-point game, but after the second technical timeout Spain took a small lead and eventually won at 25-21. Although the head coach of Belarus Piotr Khilko tried to stop the Spanish players by taking some timeouts, opposite Maria Segura and outside-spiker Jessica Rivero peformed well in attack for Spain in that part of the match.
• Belarus started much better in the second part, scoring point after point and being excellent at blocking. The hosts were able to take the set at a canter (25-11).
• The third part was marked by intense play and a continuous change of the lead in the last minutes. However, the team of Spain grabbed it after showing better nerves in the decisive moments. The key players for the Spanish team were the libero Alba Maria Sanchez and captain Helia Gonzalez who were stable in the court and kept motivating their teammates.
• Spain performed great from the service line in the fourth set and thanks to this, the visitors managed to take their first win in the competition.
• Tatsiana Markevich tried it hard to help Team Belarus – she was perfect in reception (64% positive) and became also Best Scorer for Belarus with 17 points, but this was not enough and Belarus lost the match.
Piotr Khilko, coach of Belarus: “We made too many mistakes in our match vs. Spain. We weren’t good in reception and because of that we couldn’t develop our game, we couldn’t use our strongest weapons – the block and the attack that we showed in the first part. However, there is no tragedy here, there are still many matches ahead of us and what we have to do is to draw the right conclusions.”
Jessica Rivero, player of Spain: “After losing to the Czech Republic, we took our lessons. We showed good skills in defense, we managed to do well in serving. I must say that the matches with the Czech Republic didn’t show our real game; here we proved that we can do better and we are happy with the result. In my opinion, we will have an interesting fight in Pool C – there are tough opponents and everything is possible.”
Czech Republic vs. Slovakia 3-0 (25-17, 25-20, 25-19)
• The beginning of the match was quite balanced. However, within a short time the Czechs edged ahead and they won the first set easily.
• Andrea Kossanyiova made seven points with her serve and attacks in the first set.
• Czech Republic served four aces in the first set.
• The team from Czech was better in the second set and they won this one too.
• In the last set, the home side dominated as well, thus cashing a 3-0 victory.
• Half of the total amount of blocks killed by the Czech team (5 out of 10) was made in the third set.
• The hall was sold out and there was a really fantastic and exciting atmosphere.
• Best scorers were Andrea Kossanyiova with 19 points for the Czech Republic and Nikola Radosova with nine for Slovakia.
Zdeněk Pommer, coach of Czech Republic: “On the tribunes there were a lot of children who accounted for a really great atmosphere. If they will be like this in the future, we will have a lot of great players. I’m so happy for our victory today.”
Barbora Purchartová, captain of Czech Republic: “We played really great from the start, not like the last time. We had a great service and the Slovakians had problems with their passing. This was decisive towards the outcome of the match. We played our game and I am really happy with our victory today.”