Poreč, Croatia, November 12, 2011. Croatia and the Netherlands are the finalists of the Olympic pre-qualification tournament that is taking place this week in Poreč. After they edged Israel (3:1) and France (3:0) respectively, tomorrow these teams will be battling for the sole ticket at stake to advance to the European Qualification tournament which is set to be held in May 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey.
“After a couple of speedy wins over France and Sweden, today we had some more problems to cruise past Israel” says Croatian head coach Damir Jurko. “Unexpectedly we lost our first set since the start of this tournament but our victory was never to be questioned” he adds. The very last moment where the hosts were somehow in danger came in set 4, where after leading 12:7, they had to cope with an Israeli comeback with the guests leveling at 14 all. However, the experience and winning attitude of the home heroines made the difference to finish it off with a 3:1. Sanja Popovic top scored for the home side with 22 points, well supported by Senna Usic Jogunica (15), Ivana Milos (14) and Ilijana Dugandzic (11). Tatiana Artmenko and Anna Velikiy contributed 17 and 14 points respectively for Israel.
Although France had an opportunity to seal set 2, the Netherlands basically dominated the scene in the second semifinal that ended in a quick 3:0 for the “Oranjes”. “We played a good game and had our own chance in the second set but we did not profit of this. I wish our opponents all the best for the final with Croatia” comments France’s mentor Fabrice Vial. On the other side, even missing their captain Manon Flier, the Netherlands have advanced to the final of this tournament without losing a set. “We had some luck but tomorrow we expect a much more difficult match against the local girls. We want to finish on top and we have been working intensively for the last three weeks to achieve this goal” states Dutch head coach Bert Goedkoop. Lonneke Sloetjes top scored for the Dutch side this afternoon with 16 with Debby Stam-Pilon adding 13, while Christina Bauer totaled 15 for France.