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Italy conclude Pool I play with perfect 5-0 record at CEV Girls' Youth Volleyball Championship
Italy continued their winning streak at the 2013 CEV Youth Volleyball European Championship – Girls by beating the Czech Republic in straight sets on Thursday, finishing their Pool I campaign with a 5-0 win-loss record. Poland took the second semifinal spot from Pool I, while wins by Slovenia (3-0 over Montenegro) and Greece (3-1 against Poland) earned them spots in the fifth-to-eighth classification round. The Czech Republic and hosts Montenegro fell out of contention.
Greece 3, Poland 1 (27-25, 28-26, 9-25, 25-21)
Greece did their homework and were able to beat Poland in their last Pool I match. It was a roller-coaster duel with many comebacks on both sides.
The top scorer was Greek captain Olga Strantzali with 23 kills, including five service winners and one block.
Poland established a 16-12 advantage in the opening set and Greece coach Dimitrios Floros was forced to replace several players after Poland pulled away to a comfortable 22-15 lead. Floros’ plan was apparently the right strategy as the Greeks steadily came from behind to draw level at 24-24. Ioanna Gkountimenko and Alexandra Psoma added two block kills as Greece stole the first set 27-25.
The upcoming Greek stars were still hot in the second set, racing to 8-6 and 16-9 leads at the technical timeouts. With Psoma and captain Strantzali consistent in attacking, Greece stormed to a 21-13 lead while the Poles had problems with service reception. However, Greece struggled to close out the set and Poland had a chance to win it at 25-24. Strantzali fired back from the right before an out-of-court smash from Malwina Smarzek gave the Greeks a hard-earned 2-0 lead.
The Poles came back aggressively in the third set but the fourth set saw the two sides doing battle once again, with the scoring difference never exceeding three points up to the second technical break. Strantzali led her team with blistering missiles through the Polish defence and Anthi Vasilantonaki added a rocket from the right to seal the important victory for Greece.
Italy 3, Czech Republic 0 (25-16, 25-19, 25-17)
Italy continued their winning streak with a comfortable win over the Czech Republic and concluded Pool I with a 5-0 record. The Czech Republic fell to 2-3 and failed to finish in the top eight of the tournament.
Czech Michaela Mlejnkova was the top scorer of the match with 14 points, while Sara Bonifacio had 10 kills for Italy.
Aided by five service aces, the “squadra azzurra” led 16-12 at the second technical timeout. The two hard-hitting teams exchanged powerful spikes but Italy managed to hold onto the lead until the end of the set.
The young Czechs hit better form in the opening stage of the second set and were 16-14 up at the second technical break. From then on, however, the match turned into a lopsided affair as Italian pair Sofia D’Odorico and Anna Danesi outfoxed their opponents with an array of bullet-like spikes and solid block work.
The third set was more of the same as the East Europeans could only put up a fight in the beginning. At 24-17, Italy’s Giulia Angelina delivered a cross-court spike from the back row for the winner.
Italy coach Luca Pieragnoli: “I am satisfied with the game my girls showed. We played very well and this is the style I want to see until the end of the tournament. We were focused and our concentration was at a high level.”
Czech Republic coach Leos Chalupa: “In my opinion, Italy is a very strong team and they deserve to battle for the medals. We played very badly tonight, finishing fifth in our Pool. We’ll stay a couple of days here in Bar and enjoy the final stage of the tournament.”
Slovenia 3, Montenegro 0 (25-7, 25-9, 25-9)
Slovenia swept past hosts Montenegro in just 57 minutes.
Slovenia’s Lana Scuka topped the scoring chart with 16 points, including one service winner and three blocks. Ela Pintar helped her side with 10 kills.
Slovenia started aggressively, holding a perfect lead (8-0) at the first technical break. Montenegro then made two receiving errors as Joze Casar’s team expanded their advantage to a massive 14-0 before closing out the set.
The Slovenians took a 16-5 lead in the second set, but Montenegro, cheered on by their screaming home fans, refused to surrender easily and pulled back to 21-9. The blue-and-whites stayed focused and finished the set with efficient blocking and powerful spiking.
After going down two sets, Montenegro could play without pressure and took an early lead in the third. But the Slovenians staged a 3-0 run to lead 8-5 at the first TTO. Montenegro did their best but could not strike back after the Slovenians strengthened their defence and counter-attacked well. When Slovenia was leading 24-9, Sasa Zdovc spiked the winner to end the one-sided match.
The Preliminary Phase of the Championship was split into two pools of six teams with the top two from each pool advancing to the semifinals. The third- and fourth-ranked teams in each group will play for places 5-8.
Match schedule for Saturday
Classification matches 5-8
10:30 Greece vs. Russia
13:00 Germany vs. Slovenia
15:30 Italy vs. Serbia
18:00 Turkey vs. Poland
The final rankings will determine the six teams representing Europe at this year’s FIVB Girls' Youth World Championship in Thailand, as well as the eight nations taking part at the European Youth Olympic Festival in the Netherlands.
All semifinal and classification matches are available live and for free at www.laola1.tv.