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Arnhem, Netherlands, April 9, 2017. Russia was crowned European champion in Arnhem at the end of a long and amazing tournament, where the Russian butterflies flew to a remarkable 3-2 (18-25, 25-16, 26-24, 21-25, 15-10) win over Italy in a roller coaster final at the 2017 CEV U18 Volleyball European Championship – Women. Belarus finished their campaign with a 3-2 (17-25, 29-27, 25-17, 22-25, 15-13) win over Serbia in the bronze medal match to secure the first podium appearance for their country since the U18 women’s European Championship in 2001.
FINAL | Italy vs. Russia
Russia overcame Italy in a remake of the match these teams had already contested in Pool I at the very beginning of the tournament and where the Italian girls overpowered the opponents in straight sets. This is Russia’s third title in the competition following their gold medal performance from 1997 and 2015. Russia is the first team that could defend the title and have so far claimed 6 (3 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze) medals in this competition. Italy were also vying for their third title after topping the charts in 1995 and 2001 but had to be content with silver.
The expected clash of the giants was an absolutely a roller coaster. Italy got off to a very good start (16-10) and had widened their lead up to seven points until the crunch time in the first set (21-14). The Italian girls showed all their power which the spectators could also see in the previous days. With an enormous offense rate of 60%, it was no surprise that Russia couldn’t deal with the Italian powerhouse to lose the opener in a clear way at 18-25. The second set was exactly a reverse of the past one. This time Russia improved the performance in attack from 30% to 48% while the Italian girls declined their efficiency to 38%. The reason for this lack was easy found as Russia’s great working block-defence system touched almost every attack to equalize the game at 25-16.
In continued that way. Italy was certainly hoping to prolong their positive trend for they had won all matches in the tournament but Russia was once more quick off the blocks in the second third set. It was a close finish in the end as Russia fended one set ball at 23-24 to turn the score with three points in a row to 26-24. As everyone thought that this have to be the deciding moment, it were the Italian girls celebrating a great comeback with great serves. They made three aces and stopped the Russian attack by upsetting the reception. MVP Terry Ruth Nkemdilim Enweonwu kept the hopes alive and finished a strong fourth stage with 25-22.
The fifth set has been decided before the crunch time. Russia was comfortably leading the way 12-7 to break the Italian faith. However, it looked like the Champion was also gradually finding their best play, especially with 3 killing blocks and a much better offense compared to Italy (54% to 35%). Russia’s outside-spiker Valeriya Shevchuk made the last point and started the Russian celebration on the field.
Russia coach Alexander Karikov sai: ‘’Starting slowly is typical for Russian team. Italy defeated us in the first game but the most important match was made today. I’m so happy that we won the tournament. Our girls made an incredible job and deserved the win.’’
Russian assistant coach and Volleyball legend Ekaterina Gamova addes: ‘’I love the girls. I’m just happy that we won the European Championship. I tried my best at this tournament and helped the girls where I could. It is a great job and I will do it as long as I can.’’
Luca Cristofani, Italy coach reported: “Congratulations to Russia. Of course, we are disappointed but Russia was the better team today. We had a great tournament until the final and will go to the World Championship. We hope that we can take our best performances over there.’’
Bronze Medal Match | Serbia vs. Belarus
Belarus celebrated the second bronze medal in #EuroVolleyU18W history earning a thrilling win over Serbia that ended the tournament on a ungrateful 4th rank. The match started with strong Serbia that profited from a good reception (57%) to snatch an early three point lead until the first technical time-out (8-5). Belarus had too many problems in attack scoring just 27% of their efforts. The Serbians were fuelled with a lot of motivation after the thrilling semi-final defeat on Saturday and flew to an easy opener win with outside-spikers Jovana Mirosavljevic and Dejana Lekic achieving already five points each at the beginning. The Belarus girls could improve the performance in the second set and converted 37% of their attacks, but the most important was that they forced Serbia in long Rallies, where Belarus almost always won. They went up to 24-23 to rang in a thrilling crunch time as they levelled the game by using the fifth set ball at 29-27. This important equalizer caused a performance explosion by the Belarus team which increased the score by an easy win in the third chapter (25-17).
As the game resumed, again Serbia woke up and took the leadership at the beginning of the fourth set. Both teams acted on the same level and dropped the game into a great fight. This time it was Serbia’s offense that could withstand the Belarusian pressure to kill the set with four blocks and a very well working block-defence system at 25-22. The fifth set was a real thriller in the crunch time. Serbia already led the score 13-10 and was near to celebrate a successful #EuroVolleyU18W finish but they struggled with their nerves and didn’t make the final step while the Belarus girls gave all their energy and power in the last rallies. Belarus’s outstanding outside-spiker Hanna Hryshkevich piled up the deciding points and deservedly toped scored in the end with 24 points to start the party in Arnhem (15-13).
Natallia Melianiuk, Belarus coach celebrated the medal: ‘’We are happy and glad that we have finished the tournament this way. It is a wonderful moment for everyone and we will enjoy it. We had to wait so long for another medal at the European Championship, so I’m proud of my players. I told them in the fifth set that they should continue to put Serbia under pressure which worked out really well. We gave all our passion and energy in this moments, that was amazing.’’
Serbia coach Jovo Cakovic added: ‘’First of all congratulations to Belarus. Of course, it is a hard moment for my players. It was the second match in a row where we had to play five sets. Our nerves made the difference in the end. Although we didn’t win a medal, it was still great to be here with the girls. It was such a bad start at the beginning, but we made a great comeback and belong to the best four teams in Europe as well as the best teams which can go to the World Championship in Argentina.’’
#EuroVolleyU18W DREAM TEAM
SETTER: Rachele Morello / Italy
OPPOSITE: Terry Ruth Nkemdilim Enweonwu / Italy
OUTSIDE SPIKER: Elena Pietrini / Italy
OUTSIDE SPIKER: Valeriya Shevchuk / Russia
MIDDLE BLOCKER: Viktoriia Pushina / Russia
MIDDLE BLOCKER: Yuliya Kisliuk / Belarus
LIBERO: Mila Kocic / Serbia
MVP: Terry Ruth Nkemdilim Enweonwu / Italy
To smo mi v 2014/15 " ŽOK Braslovče"