Turkey will face Serbia for the 2012 CEV Junior Volleyball European Championship – Women final in Ankara on Sunday at 14:00 (local time) preceded by the bronze medal match between Italy and Russia at 11:30 (local time).
For the first time since 2002, Italy will not play the final match of CEV Junior Volleyball European Championship – Women. The team of head coach Marco Mencarelli lost today’s first semifinal duel against Serbia at Baskent Hall in Ankara in straight sets (23-25, 19-25, 24-26). Two years after their silver medal in Belgrade, Serbia qualified again for the prestigious gold medal match. Best scorer of the match was Italy’s Elena Perinelli with 14 kills, whilst Bianka Busa booked twelve points for Serbia. The East Europeans scored 13 block kills, Italy on the other side had only six.
Titleholders Italy jumped out for a 4-1 in the first set with Serbia struggling in reception. However, the team of head coach Ratko Pavlicevic fired back immediately with three consecutive block kills to turn the tables at the first technical break (8-6). The “squadra azzurra” needed a fast offensive game to overcome the strong Serbian block, but some imprecise passing forced Italian setter Giulia Carraro to slow down her game. At 17-20, Italian head coach Mencarelli called his young talents off court to have a serious talk. Alessia Fiesoli and Perinelli reduced the gap to one point at 19-20, but 2010 runner-up Serbia kept the upper hand during “money time”. Jelena Trnic brought up set point with a quick combination in the middle before captain Busa ended the first set in Serbia’s favor with a blistering winner on the left. With ten points, Perinelli was the outstanding force for Italy in the starting set, whilst Natasa Cikiriz helped her side with six kills.
Serbia still set the pace in the beginning of the second set (8-5). Although the defending champions showed some remarkable work in defense, their overall game was too inexact. Busa added some razor-sharp serves to bother the Italian passers. Mencarelli sent in Martina Recine for Carraro, but at the second technical break, the scoreboard still showed a three-point difference in Serbia’s favor. Both teams experienced many ups and downs in the second period, not always performing at their best level. However, it was the Serbian side which kept control at the end of the set with Nikolina Lukic hammering for a well-deserved 2:0 Serbian set lead (25-19). Best player on the court so far was undoubtedly Serbia’s setter Sladjana Mirkovic who directed the Serbian game brilliantly and added some astonishing saves in defense.
Even though Italy’s captain Cristina Chirichella tried to encourage her teammates with some speedy arrangements through the middle, the reigning champions experienced major problems in almost all aspects of their game. Busa opened the gap to six points at the second technical time-out, offering Serbia an excellent opportunity to battle for gold on Sunday afternoon. On the other side, Italy’s hopes for a fifth (!) consecutive triumph at CEV Junior Volleyball European Championship – Women vanished into thin air. However, a fantastic comeback with eight (!) consecutive points brought the South Europeans suddenly back on track. Nevertheless, the Serbians kept cool, turning around the score again. After 83 minutes of play, the Pavlicevic squad seized their second match ball to bounce in heaven (26-24).
Serbia coach Ratko Pavlicevic: “The clear result is a surprise for me. We faced Italy many times and it was always very hard to beat them. But today we stayed calm and believed in our-selves. Now we’ll celebrate a short moment before focusing again for Sunday’s final duel.”
Serbia captain Bianka Busa: “We played very steadily at the net and had a strong block. I guess we deserved to win today.”
Italy head coach Marco Mencarelli: “We lost against the best team of the tournament. Congratulations, Serbia made an excellent preparation for this final round.”
Italy captain Cristina Chirichella: “We experienced many difficulties today. But Serbia was a very strong opponent; congratulations to the Serbian players.”