2018 FIVB World Championship – Women’s European Qualifier
- May 23 to June 4
With a spot in the World Championships on the line, No. 3 Italy edged host Belgium in three close sets to earn its ticket to Japan in 2018. Belgium will vie for another seat at Worlds in the European qualifying third round in August.
Meanwhile, Belarus ended its stay in Kortrijk with a five-set win over Bosnia and Herzegovina and Spain swept Latvia.
Spain 3, Latvia 0
Sunday’s match between Spain and Latvia wasn’t much of a contest as the Latvians were outplayed from the start. Spain won 25-8, 25-16, 25-19 thanks to a 47 percent hitting effort and 13 aces.
“We started this tournament very bad, but there was a lot of progress during the next few days and today it was perhaps our best game of the week,” Spanish captain Helia Gonzalez said. “The result is important for the confidence in the team, and to leave good feelings for the future. We expected a difficult week, but after our victories over Latvia and Bosnia and Herzegovina we are motivated to play in the European League, where we will try to reach the Final Four.”
Four players reached double-digit point totals for Spain: Gonzalez (14), Maria Segura (14), Milagros Collar (13) and Jessica Rivero (10). Segura put up a match-high 13 kills, while Gonzalez managed eight kills and six aces.
Jelizaveta Morozova chipped in eight points, with seven kills and a block, for Latvia.
“We started this year with a very young team and we saw here we have still a lot of work to do: better defence, more pressure with our serve, but we do our best,” Latvia captain Elvita Dolotova said. “It is important that we always play with a great team spirit and that we keep in mind that this group has the potential to grow.”
Belarus 3, Bosnia and Herzegovina 2
Belarus and Bosnia and Herzegovina were out of the race for a World Championships berth, but left it all out on the table in a two hour and 13 minute marathon. Belarus claimed the 25-17, 27-25, 18-25, 25-27, 15-7 win.
Belarus rallied late in the first set and overcame a 24-21 deficit in Set 2 to score victories. Bosnia and Herzegovina stayed in the match with a start to finish 25-18 win in Set 3 and came back from down 24-22 in Set 4 to grab a 27-25 win and extend the match. Belarus left little doubt in the final stanza, jumping ahead 10-4 en route to the victory.
“We were happy that we won this match, so that we are the number 3 in this pool,” Belarus’ Anastasiya Harelik said. “Of course we want to be the number one or number two, but we played a very good tournament, we are improving and we hope to show this in the European League.”
Belarus put up 13 blocks, including five by Vera Klimovich and four by Darya Ionava in the win, while Bosnia and Herzegovina added 10.
Bosnia and Herzogovina served up 11 aces to stay in the match, including four by Verica Simic, while allowing nine.
Bosnia committed 33 errors in the match, including 12 service miscues.
Nadzeya Malasai put up a match-high 25 points, with 19 kills, three blocks and three aces. Tatsiana Seryk (18), Kristina Kicka (15) and Klimovich (12) followed with double-digit point tallies.
Edina Begic racked up 19 points for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ana Gajic (15), Natasa Slijepcevic (15) and Simic (14) also reached double digits.
“We enjoy the game, but unfortunately we lost,” Begic said. “We were not yet complete as a team, but we are very good as a group and we improved a lot compared to last year.”
Italy 3, Belgium 0
In the match that fans had been waiting for all week, the Italians held Belgium at bay for the 25-18, 25-22, 25-23 win.
After leading for the majority of the first set, it took late rallies for the Italians to claim victory. Italy tallied three blocks and two aces in coming back from down 21-18 in the Set 2 win. In Set 3, it was a 16-14 deficit in the way en route to the 25-23 victory.
“Not only the second and the third sets were difficult for us, the first set was challenging as well,” Italian coach Davide Mazzanti said. “We knew that it would be a close game and we had to play very solid especially in block and defense.”
Italy managed 13 blocks, five aces and a 39 percent hitting effort in the win, while Belgium answered with 11 blocks, one aces and a 33 percent clip.
“We missed some easy points at the crucial moments but I am not disappointed,” Belgian coach Gert Vande Broek said. “I am not happy with the result, but I am sure that the fans enjoyed a great game. We could stop the Italians quite regularly, but could not do so with Paola Egonu. We played at 90% of our abilities, but to be able to beat Italy, you have to be at 100 percent. It will be very difficult to qualify in August when playing against another five strong teams.”
Italian Paola Ogechi Egonu tallied 23 points in the three-set affair, with 18 kills, two blocks and three aces. Raphaela Folie and Cristina Chirichella added 10 apiece. Chirichella managed a team-best four blocks.
Lise Van Hecke led the Belgians with 14 points, while Laura Heyrman (11) and Freya Aelbrecht (10) followed. Aelbrecht put up five blocks, while Heyrman added four.