Czech Republic qualify for Golden #EuroLeagueW Final Four

Luxembourg, June 2, 2018. The Czech Republic booked their ticket to the Final Four of the 2018 CEV Volleyball Golden European League – Women, doing so after adding another victory to their tally in Pool C where they boast a record of five wins in as many matches. Finland beat France to top Pool B with four wins and 12 points but they are still to secure their spot in the Finals. Meanwhile, in Pool A the situation is uncertain as the two top teams, Bulgaria and Azerbaijan, go head to head with four victories and 12 points each and will have to wait until the last match to find out who will eventually reach the Final Round. On Wednesday, June 6, Bulgaria will be playing Portugal, while Azerbaijan are facing Ukraine.

Pool A

Portugal vs. Azerbaijan 1-3 (20-25, 28-26, 11-25, 15-25)

  • Not so many errors (only a few in attack) and an effective performance at the service line were the key points of the positive result for the team of Azerbaijan in the first set, as they took it by 25-20. Olena Hasanova was shining, scoring six points, while the captain of the team Odina Bayramova put five points to her name.
  • The second set was more balanced, with Julia Kavalenka from the host team tying the score by the time of the second technical time out thanks to a great block. In these moments, Portugal were showing good skills precisely on the block (Eduarda Duarte at the twentieth point for Portugal). The players headed by Manuel Almeida were on fire, but the Azerbaijanis  weren’t letting them win this part that easily. The play went point-for-point but thanks to a point by Neusa Neto, the Portuguese team closed the second set at 28-26 in their favour.
  • With Yana Azimova in the service, Famil Aghayev’s team gained a massive 10-0 lead in the early stages of the third set. Things didn’t change and as the set was developing, Azerbaijan kept on scoring to eventually take it by 25-11.
    • The Finnish captain Pauliina Vilponen was the best scorer of this match with 17 points. The French opposite, Alexandra Dascalu, was a close second with 16.
    • 1,280 spectators attended the match in Parc des Sports des Nations VANDOEUVRE-LES-NANCY Hall.
    • France won their second set in the 2018 CEV Golden European League.Portugal tried to react, but the confidence grew among the players from Azerbaijan, making it very difficult for the locals to perform on their highest level. Azerbaijan claimed the fourth set as well at 25-15 and congratulated themselves with a win.

      Manuel Almeida, coach of Portugal: “We played the second set at a high level, in which we demonstrated that we are able to face such strong teams, and we were rewarded with the win in this part, but afterwards we were unable to maintain our focus both individually and as a team in the match. We  will continue to try to find a way on how to give more consistency to our game.”

      Katerina Zhidkova, player of Azerbaijan: “We could have played better, but the most important is the victory that we achieved and that allows us to continue to fight for participation in the Final Four, that is our aim.”

      Ukraine vs. Bulgaria 0-3 (18-25, 20-22, 22-25)

      •    Ukraine hosted Bulgaria in the next-to-last round of the pool stage; only a 3-0 victory would have kept the home side in contention for a spot in the Final Four.
      •    However, pre-favourite Bulgaria stormed to a 3-0 win, thus cementing their status and role of top team in Pool A.
      •    Bulgaria could count on almost their ideal roster, while Ukraine’s star players Nadiia Kodola and Anastasiia Kraiduba were not in their best shape.
      •    Bulgaria claimed an early six-point lead in the first set and were able to hold on to this until the end.
      •    The second set was a closer affair, with Bulgaria eventually prevailing thanks to the spikes of Silvana Chausheva and the points scored by Gergana and Nasya Dimitrova.

      •    Ukraine secured an early lead in the third set and they stayed ahead later on as well (19-17) with Anna Stepaniuk putting pressure on the Bulgarian receivers with her tricky serves. However, a few Ukrainian mistakes followed soon and Bulgaria levelled the score at 22-all. The visitors eventually sealed a 3-0 victory and as a result, Ukraine are definitely out of contention for a spot in the Finals.
      •    Chausheva top scored in the game with 13 points as Karyna Denysova registered 12 for Ukraine in their losing effort.

      Pool B

      Croatia vs. Hungary 3-2 (23-25, 25-23, 25-15, 19-25, 15-9)

      •    In a match that lasted almost two and a half hours, the home team grabbed a crucial 3-2 win, which keeps their chances for a spot in the #EuroLeagueW Finals alive.
      •    Hungary won the first set 25-23. They opened the set leading by as many as five points at 7-2, and even though Croatia were close to drawing level, they could not do so.
      •    Croatia stroke back with the same result in an exhausting almost half-an-hour-long second set.
      •    The hosts took the lead in the third set. It was a very close affair up to 13-13, before Croatia scored eight points in a row, which made it a lot easier for them to emerge victorious in this part of the game.
      •    Hungary did not give up – they showed great play in the fourth set, leading by as many as nine points at 20-11. Looking very determined, they did not have any serious problems until the end of the set and brought this match into a tiebreaker.
      •    Croatia started very well in the decisive fifth set with a massive 7-0 lead and controlled the game until the end (15-9) to take two points from this match.
      •    Croatia’s Samanta Fabris became again the best scorer (31 points) for her side, while Renata Sandor from Hungary recorded 24 points.

      Samanta Fabris, player of Croatia: “We fought a lot for this victory. We had many ups and downs in our game, but I am happy we took these two points in the end.”

      Renata Sandor, player of Hungary: “I am sad because I think we dropped so easy in the fifth set, but it was a really good match.”

      Jan De Brandt, head coach of Hungary: “It was a close match. I gave a chance to many players to gain experience – so that they can get ready for the Final Four.”

      France vs. Finland 1-3 (14-25, 25-18, 14-25, 22-25)

      • The Finnish captain Pauliina Vilponen was the best scorer of this match with 17 points. The French opposite, Alexandra Dascalu, was a close second with 16.
      • 1,280 spectators attended the match in Parc des Sports des Nations VANDOEUVRE-LES-NANCY Hall.
      • France won their second set in the 2018 CEV Golden European League.
      Vandoeuvre-Lès-Nancy, France – 02/06/2018 – CEV GOLDEN EUROPEAN LEAGUE – Pool B – FRANCE vs FINLAND – Photo Jean-Marie Hervio / FFVolley

      Héléna Cazaute, player of France: “Winning one set is definitely a plus, we managed to communicate better on the court, and we can clearly see some evolution. However, we need to stay focused; we know Croatia has some physical players so we will analyse their game and try to win our last match in the pool.”

      Manon Bernard, player of France: “I am extremely proud to have worn the French jersey tonight and to play in front of an audience I know – I play here during the season. I’m starting to find my bearings in the team, but it was not hard given that I knew most of the players. We still need to communicate more because the international level is stronger than the French League A, especially in the serve – reception area.”

      Félix André, coach of France: “It’s better than the previous games, but I really felt that we could have won that fourth set. It’s frustrating to end with so many individual unforced errors in the crucial time. My players are still young and soft but we are preparing for the future. Tonight, I decided to make fewer substitutions in order to give the players on the court more confidence and possibly win a match at home, but we will try harder on Wednesday.”

      Pool C

      Czech Republic vs. Belarus 3-0  
(25-18, 25-18, 25-21)

      • This was the last match on home soil for Czech Republic, this time in Jindřichův Hradec.
      • With only one match left in the League Round, Czech Republic have qualified to the Final Four as they have now five wins and 15 points in Pool C, eight points clear of Belarus who hold second place with seven points courtesy of three wins and two losses.
      • Michaela Mlejnkova was the best scorer in the match, with 20 points for the hosting team. On the Belarusian side, Hanna Hryshkevich scored nine points for her team.
      • The Czechs received a big support from a full house in Jindřichův Hradec. Many of the fans were children who created a really great atmosphere and let their voices be heard.
      • The libero of Belarus, Volha Pauliukouskaya was replaced by Viktoryia Haniyeva, when she got an injury that made it impossible for her to continue the game.
      • The first set was balanced from the beginning but then Czech Republic improved the level of their performance, becoming the better team in the opening act.
      • The second set was a close affair. However, the Czech Republic claimed a five-point lead at the end of the set and they capitalised on it before securing a 3-0 victory.
        Barbora Purchartová, captain of Czech Republic: “There was a really great atmosphere here in Jindřichův Hradec. The fans were amazing. We are happy that we won 3-0 and qualified for the Final Four.”

        Lubomír Staněk, assistant coach of Czech Republic: “We had a lot of respect for the match with the team of Belarus, but the girls played really great. We are looking forward to the Final Four. We believe we will succeed there as well.”

        Piotr Khilko, coach of Belarus: “We made a lot of mistakes in this match and that is why we lost. I want to congratulate the Czech Republic for their progression to the Final Four.”

        Spain vs. Slovakia 1-3 (21-25, 17-25, 25-20, 27-29)

        • This is the first victory for Slovakia in this year’s European League.
        • Spain were improving as the match was unfolding, but eventually and despite their hard attempts, could not bring this matchup into a tiebreak.
        • Ana Escamilla became top scorer of the match with 23 points to her name.
        • For the Slovakian side Nikola Radosova was the best, scoring 19 times.
        • These two teams are breathing down each other’s necks in Pool C with one victory apiece. The third position will be decided in the last match in Slovakia, which will be held next Wednesday, June 6.

        Marco Fenoglio, coach of Slovakia: “I’m very tired, it was a very tough match. The victory today is very important when it comes to the standing in the Pool and for our national federation as well. We will try to do our best next Wednesday in order to clinch the third position in the group.”

        María José Corral Bouza, player of Spain: “Our start today was not so good – we made too many mistakes. We started to play our game in the third set. It was a pity that we could not force a tiebreak.”