After two days of competition in Baku, Azerbaijan, the Netherlands and host Azerbaijan sit atop Pool E with a pair of victories, while Ukraine and Israel follow with one apiece.
On Tuesday, all three matches were decided in sweeps. The Dutch topped Denmark, while Azerbaijan downed Norway and Ukraine defeated Israel.
On Wednesday, it was more of the same for the fifth-ranked Dutch and No. 12 squad from Azerbaijan as the teams topped Norway and Ukraine respectively. Israel broke into the win column with a sweep of Denmark.
The Netherlands downed Denmark 25-12, 25-13, 25-9 with help from 12 aces, a 54 percent hitting effort and 14 points from Anne Buijs. Buijs downed nine kills and served up five aces, while Celeste Plak turned in 13 points, including a match-high 12 kills.
“We started well, but this is only the first step,” Dutch coach Jamie Morrison said. “We need to prepare for the next matches against Ukraine and Azerbaijan. These are our main opponents in this qualification.”
Denmark’s best effort came from Trine Noer Kjelstrup, who registered 11 kills.
On Wednesday, the Dutch made quick work of Norway, registering a 25-11, 25-14, 25-13 sweep in just 63 minutes.
Nine blocks, nine aces and a 51 percent hitting effort paved the way for the Netherlands win. Maret Balkestein-Grothues managed nine points, while Yvon Belien, Lonnke Sloetjes and Buijs chipped in eight apiece.
“I think we delivered a very good performance, we have won two matches so far and we feel the rhythm of the game,” Balkestein-Grothues said. “I think we can do even better in the next matches against Israel, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. The team is 100% ready for the matches still to come.”
Norway hit just 22 percent for the match and committed 21 errors.
“We did a good job in reception and in some other aspects of the game,” Norwgian coach Odd Atle Ekerhovd said. “We keep on learning and we hope to play as good as we can in the next matches.”
It was an easy 25-15, 25-10, 25-6 win for Azerbaijan as they opened action on their home turf in Baku against Norway on Tuesday.
“I’m happy to play in Baku and to feel the support of our fans,” Azerbaijan’s Natalya Mammadova said. “It’s very important for each player and we hope we can finish first in this pool. As a member of the national team, I will be doing my best in the next matches as well.”
The victors hit at a 60 percent clip for the match, committing just eight errors, and added 12 aces. Yelyzaveta Samadova managed a match-high 18 points, with 14 kills and four aces.
Julie Heile Mikaelsen paced Norway with seven points, including four kills and two blocks.
On Wednesday, the home side faced a little bit tougher fight from Ukraine, which led for the first half of Set 2 and rallied to lead by as many as three midway through Set 3, but in the end Azerbaijan took the 25-17, 25-17, 25-21 win.
Azerbaijan outblocked Ukraine 11-4 and outserved them 8-3 in the match. A 49 percent hitting effort also aided the winner’s cause. Polina Rahimova registered a match-high 19 points, with 16 kills and three blocks, while Mammadova added 18 points with 10 kills, five aces and three blocks.
“We needed a victory, especially since this match was very important for us,” Mammadova said. “I think we did a good job, especially in reception. We immediately start preparing for the next matches as we want to extend our winning streak through to the end of the tournament.”
Anna Stephaniuk led Ukraine with 11 points, all on kills.
“Azerbaijan played a really good game,” Ukraine coach Gariy Yegiazarov said. We wanted to win but we missed our opportunities towards the end of each set.”
In Tuesday’s battle between No. 19 Ukraine and No. 21 Israel, the Ukrainians came from behind in each set to grab the 25-22, 25-20, 25-11 victory.
Israel led 8-3 in Set 1 and 10-5 in Set 2, only to fall behind by the midway point 16-15 and 16-14 respectively. The Israelis led 19-16 in Set 1, but could not hold on. The Ukrainians left no doubt in Set 3, jumping ahead 8-5 and cruising on to victory. Ukraine managed five blocks and four aces in the Set 1 win and registered 17 kills in Set 2. Three aces and seven Israeli miscues aided the victors in Set 3.
Anna Stephaniuk and Svitlana Dorsman tallied 12 points apiece to lead the scoring for Ukraine. Stepaniuk tallied 11 kills and an ace, while Dorsman managed six kills, three blocks and three aces.
Marmen Vitalia managed nine points to lead Israel, while Anna Velikiy added eight.
The Israelis registered their first win of the tournament, topping Denmark 25-22, 25-19, 25-18, as Anna Velikiy scored a match-high 24 points.
Isreal led Set 1 nearly start to finish, save a short mid-set lull. Denmark went up 8-4 and 16-14 in Set 2 but Israel turned the tables with a 7-2 run en route to the 25-19 victory. Set 3 was a wire-to-wire win for the Israelis to close out the match.
Israel put up 13 blocks, including four each by Avital Jaloba and Marmen Vitalia. Vitalia also supplied three of the team’s eight aces.
Anna Velikiy scored a match-high 24 points, including 22 kills, for Israel, while Vitalia managed 16 points.
Trine Noer Kjelstrup posted 14 points, including 13 kills, for Denmark.