Russia defeated the Netherlands in four sets in the final of the European Women's Olympic Qualification Tournament to secure the Rio 2016 spot in Ankara on Saturday
Ankara, Turkey, January 9, 2016 – Russia secured their Rio 2016 spot after winning the final of the European Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament against the Netherlands 3-1 (25-21, 22-25, 25-19, 25-20), while Italy defeated hosts Turkey 3-2 (25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 15-25, 15-13) to finish in third place at Baskent Volleyball Hall on Saturday.
Netherlands and Italy still have another chance to go to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, through the World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Japan later this year.
The game between Russia and the Netherlands was a rematch of the 2015 European Championship final, which the former were also victorious. Russia’s appearance in Brazil will be their sixth consecutive Olympics.
Russian hitters Nataliya Obmochaeva and Tatiana Kosheleva were the top scorers of the match with 24 and 23 points, respectively, while Lonneke Sloetjes and Celeste Plak were the top Dutch scorers with 17 and 14 markers.
Russia started well in the first set, but Anne Buijs’ great service game helped the Netherlands to get back in the game. Russia took the first set 25-21 as the Dutch side could not sustain their momentum. Sloetjes aided the Netherlands to rebound with a 25-22 second set victory to level at 1-1. As both squads continued to play the high level of play, Russia managed to protect their advantage in the third and fourth sets, as Obmochaeva and Kosheleva teamed-up on offence to produce a better end game at 25-19 and 25-20, respectively.
“We have prepared for this tournament since May,” Russia coach Yuriy Marichev said. “The European Olympic qualifier was a big goal for us. The Netherlands are not an easy team to play against, they are great. Giovanni Guidetti always manages to have his team well-prepared with the right set of tactics. Right now, it is a great moment for us. However, we cannot celebrate for too long as we need to keep practising and preparing for the Olympics.”
“I am honestly really proud and happy about how my team played today,” Netherlands coach Giovanni Guidetti said. “Three months after the European Championship we played a completely different match against Russia. We started to fill the gap between them and us. Russia are still one of the best teams in the world, but we did everything we could and brought beautiful volleyball to the fans.”
Meanwhile, Italy kept their Olympic hopes alive, after they went through the five-setter against Turkey with a victory. Paola Egonu was the lone scorer on top of the scoring charts with 23 points, as the Turkish scorers Eda Erdem Dundar and Neriman Ozsoy scored 19 points each, and captain Neslihan Demir Guler added 18 points. Nevertheless, the Italians succeeded in key moments even with a small margin.
Every time Italy won the set with a slim advantage, Turkey would equalise with a set-victory that had a big lead. Both squads took turns in winning the sets, until they had to settle the match in the tiebreaker. Turkey led in the final set 8-6, until Italian captain Antonella Del Core scored crucial points that levelled the score at 9-all and 11-all. Italy had two match points in their hands at 14-12 and closed the set and match at 15-13.
“We are apparently good at playing tie-breaks,” Italy coach Marco Bonitta said. “This was our third tie-break win out of three matches in this tournament. My team showed amazing heart and incredible soul today. I am very happy for them. I am just the coach and I could not affect much. This victory belongs entirely to the players. It is fantastic to see a group with many young and old players coming together in only ten days. I do not know if this is a good result but I am happy that our hopes are still alive for the Olympics.”
“We wanted to at least go to Japan and make our people and the spectators happy, but we couldn’t make it and we are sorry,” Turkey captain Demir Guler said. “I think we are better than this. We had our moments from time to time in the game, but we could not extend that to the whole game. We did not perform well in general at this tournament.”