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22/07/2018 21:02
Dramatic #EuroVolleyU20M final brings gold to Russia!
2018 CEV U20 Volleyball European Championship - Men

The Hague, The Netherlands, July 22, 2018. Russia were crowned with the title at the 2018 CEV U20 Volleyball European Championship - Men, after winning the dramatic gold medal match against Czech Republic in a nail-biting tie-breaker. This is a record 19th championship title for Russia (also as USSR and CIS) in the history of this competition.

For Czech Republic (also as Czechoslovakia) this is the fourth silver medal and sixth medal overall. The young Czechs won the U19 European title last year, but they have never reached the top of the podium in the junior age category.

Belgium earned the last spot on the podium. In the bronze medal match against fellow co-hosts The Netherlands, the Belgians mastered a straight-set victory to earn their second medal in the history of the competition. The first one was also bronze from the 2012 edition.

Italy opened the last day of action at #EuroVolleyU20M with a speedy shutout of Belarus to claim the seventh place in the final standings. In the battle for the fifth place Germany came back from a set down to defeat Poland in four.

Gold medal final: Czech Republic vs. Russia 2-3 (25-18, 13-25, 25-21, 18-25, 16-18)

After 7-7 in the first set, Czech Republic scored four in a row to open a gap, which Russia, committing too many unforced errors, never managed to close. The Czechs actually widened it even more to close the set at an impressive 25-18. Czechia won the first rally of the second set and that was the last time they were in the lead. Russia scored as many as five aces and, with Maxim Sapozhkov on a rampage all over the court, they cruised to a 25-13 win to tie the match.

It was Marek Sotola’s turn to shine in the third set. With setter Ondrej Piskacek on serving duty, the Czechs scored seven in a row to take a 9-4 lead, but with his Russian counterpart Konstantin Abaev behind the serving line, his team managed four consecutive points not only to catch up, but also to take a one-point lead. But Sotola would not hear of it. With a total of nine points in the sets, he helped the Czechs regain control and cruise to a 25-21 win. Russia’s reaction was emphatic again. With some tremendous blocking efforts, they dominated throughout the fourth set and in the end it was Artem Melnikov's kill block that put the ball on the floor for 25-18 to prompt a tie-breaker.

As if the match were not dramatic enough, the deciding set itself was a spectacular finale of the event. Russia maintained a small lead with Abaev beautifully orchestrating the offensive line. Some perfectly placed elegant hits by Lukas Vasina helped the Czechs step up front and reach a double championship point at 14-12. The Russians reacted swiftly to level the match before a one-man block by Abaev put them at match point for the first time. They failed to convert it, the next one as well. On their third match point, Ivan Kuznetcov’s spike put the ball on the floor for the golden point -18-16!

Maxim Sapozhkov scored 22 times for Russia to top the charts of the match. Marek Sotola managed to string 20 on the other side of the net.

Jan Svoboda, coach of Czech Republic: "I am proud because we fought very well. It was a pity to waste two match points. Probably Russia were just more lucky. We are not losers today."

Ondrej Piskacek, captain of Czech Republic: "The victory was so close. We had a match point. Russia had good serves and that’s why we lost the fifth set. It was a great match!"

Dmitrii Chernyi, trainer of Russia: "The game was very hard. Last time at the European Championship we lost to Czech Republic. We are very happy that this didn’t happen again. We improved ourselves and came out stronger. We are so proud to be the European champions!"

Konstantin Abaev, captain of Russia: "Yesterday I said, ‘we will see’. It’s a finale. The Czech team played well as always, with their serves and tactics. They played well, but we were better. Yes, we made a lot of mistakes and lost the second set, but we knew we could win and now we are the champions!"

Bronze medal final: Belgium vs. The Netherlands 3-0 (35-33, 25-21, 25-20)

In the clash between the two co-hosts of the tournament, both teams enjoyed enthusiastic support from the stands. The actual hosts of the match, The Netherlands, wasted a 20-14 lead in the first set to allow Belgium to come back and prompt an exciting epilogue. The fierce battle for every point, accompanied by many unforced errors on both sides, went very deep into the overtime, with Belgian setter Seppe Van Hoyweghen finally scoring the last point for 35-33. The second set was a close fight through 17-17. Belgium’s serving (three aces) made the big difference on the way to the eventual 25-21. Berre Peters was already having a big day and the young Belgian continued to do so in the third set, leading his teammates to a 25-20 win and the bronze. He was the best scorer of the match with 20 points. On the Dutch side, Daan Streutker with 14 points was the only one to reach the double digits.

Kris Eyckmans, coach of Belgium: "I am very happy with the 3-0 victory. The game against The Netherlands in the Netherlands is something special. The Dutch team really made some great steps during this tournament. Seeing them play against Russia, I understand why they came out second in the pool. We had a terrible start, but because we won the first set I knew we could win this game. That was the basis for victory. I am really satisfied."

Matthieu Vanneste, captain of Belgium: "We played well as a team and I think we were better in all three sets. We started a little bit hesitant and that’s why it was hard to come back in the game. The first set we won by 35-33. This was the moment the Dutch team were mentally broken. I think nobody expected that we would take the bronze medal. We can be proud that we achieved this. All the players had their share in taking this medal. We are really satisfied as a team."

5th place final: Poland vs. Germany 1-3 (25-21, 23-25, 22-25, 16-25)

Poland’s blocking made the difference in the first set. Remigiusz Kapica made two kill blocks for a total of seven points, leading his teammates to a 25-21 win. In a closely contested second set, the Poles made too many mistakes and Germany capitalised on it managing a narrow 25-23 close to tie the match. The Germans came back from a three-point deficit to gain control of the third set. With Linus Weber on fire at the net (10 points) and the German blocking starting to chip in some points, they took the lead on the way to 25-22 win, sealed with a kill block by Louis Kunstmann. The fourth set was completely one-sided. Germany dominated on the court and cruised to a 25-16 ending. Linus Weber was the best scorer of the match with 22 points for Germany. Remigiusz Kapica was Poland’s most prolific player with 18 points, including five kill blocks.

Bartosz Firszt, captain of Poland: "We have worked hard and we have played against good teams. It was a good tournament. We have been able to show our character."

Johan Verstappen, coach of Germany: "These were two nice last matches against Poland and Italy. We were clearly better. We are happy that we are the best of the second four. I am very pleased that the boys have jumped up after the pool phase. We are satisfied with the fifth place."

7th place final: Belarus vs. Italy 0-3 (17-25, 20-25, 9-25)

In the first set Italy led the score from start to end. Uladzislau Babkevich score nine points, but he and his Belarusian teammates committed far too many unforced errors to let the opponents cruise to a 25-17 win. The second set was the most competitive one in the match, but after 15-14 Belarus’s way, Italy scored six in a row, with Leandro Mosca behind the serving line, to break away and managed to stay on top through 25-20. The third set was no contest. With nine points from Davide Gardini, Italy established total domination on the way to a 25-9 landslide, closed off with a double block for the winning point. Matheus Motzo was the best scorer of the match with 14 points for Italy, followed by teammate Davide Gardini and Belarus’s Uladzislau Babkevich with 13 each.

Oleg Mikanovich, coach of Belarus: "The match was terrible. Some players have injuries. Today we had problems in serving, in attacking, everywhere… We are going to see what we have to do better next time."

Francesco Recine, captain of Italy: "We were not excited to play for the seventh place, because we expected that we would play for the medals. We wanted to end this tournament with a victory in the name of Italy."

Engage with the U20 European Championship on social media by using the competition’s official hashtag #EuroVolleyU20M.

Click here for more information.

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