|Italy, Netherlands, hosts Russia claim straight-set wins on opening day of European qualifier for 2009 World Grand Prix|
Omsk, Russia, September 16, 2008 – The Netherlands downed Serbia in the big clash of the first day at the World Grand Prix 2009 European Qualification Tournament in Omsk, Russia. In other matches, Italy blanked Germany and hosts Russia overpowered outsiders France, with all three matches finishing in straight-set victories.
Serena Ortolani and Valentina Arrighetti set the pace for the Italians in the first set against the Germans, with the Azzurre building a comfortable 16-8 lead at the second technical time out. Kathleen Weiss set up Margareta Kozuch for a missile from the left to try to close the gap but the Italian block/defense system otherwise worked wonderfully well. Despite German efforts to score through the middle, Ortolani ended the set 25-18.
Germany reorganized their game in the second set. Kozuch was all over the court as she hit and defended like a champion and helped the Germans to keep in touch with the Italian express (13-14). Nevertheless, Head Coach Massimo Barbolini’s charges responded with some hard spikes from the right, and a block winner by Nadia Centoni secured a 16-13 lead at the second technical time out. The set was balanced on a knife edge (20-21) before the Italians took control again, led by their solid defense as Germany struggled with their attacks. Centoni closed the set from the left 25-22.
The Germans fought hard early in the third set and managed to stay up at 7-6, but
Serbia forced the pace in the second period, taking a 16-14 lead at the second technical time out. The 18-year-old Stefana Veljkovic especially showed her talent, scoring both on block at attack. But the Netherlands bounced back strongly (20-17), and when Flier brought up set point with a blistering back-row spike, the Serbian resistance was broken (22-25).
Captain Jelena Nikolic and Natasa Krsmanovic kept Serbian's offence going in the third set but the Dutch squad was unstoppable at the net and unbreakable on defence, closing the match 25-20.
Best scorers of the match were Flier with 18 points and Bloom with 13.
Russian Head Coach Vadim Pankov's charges stayed on target in the second set as their hitters scored all over the court, clinching the set again 25-19.
The 19-year-old Alexandra Pasynkova set the pace in the new composed Russian team, and when Maria Borodokova blocked for a 24-23 Russian lead in set three, French hopes vanished into thin air. Ekaterina Gamova ended it some moments later, 25-23 to Russia.
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse