Eight national teams have started yesterday the Middle European Championship in Zadar, Croatia that counts also as a qualifier for the U17 Women European Championship. Before the tournament, there were several favorites on paper, so after the first playing day the picture is a bit clearer, however still difficult to predict who the semi-finalists will be.
In Group A, the Czech Republic somehow justified their role as favorites in the first meeting. Against Austria, the result of 3-0 is a bit misleading, as the Austrians collected 23 points in the first and third sets. In serve and serve-reception, the teams were equal, the Czech Republic stood out with their attacking and they also scored three blocks more than their opponents. The second game of the day in Group A was played between Croatia and Cyprus. In the first three sets, Croatia earned a five-point lead already by the middle of the set. The first two sets were also convincingly won, but not the third, as the women of Cyprus surprised with high efficiency in the attack despite their poor serve-reception. The angry hosts strongly defied Cyprus in the fourth set and allowed them only seven points. The won set of Cyprus was a good announcement for the later match against Austria, which ended only after the decisive fifth set. The first and fourth sets Cyprus won by a two-point margin, while they gave the second and third away a bit easier. In the fifth, the Austrians took a 5-2 lead and held the difference until the end of the set. Despite this, the most effective player was from Cyprus – Andrea Dobrašinovi? collected 21 points and commented after the match: “Croatia was better, but we had a chance to win against Austria. Unfortunately, we made too many mistakes at the end of the match and closely lost it. “
The Czech Republic justified their role as one of the tournament favorites in the match against the local team. The first set was easily won by the guests, after scoring as many as six direct service points. Unbothered by it the hosts played the second set a lot better, especially in the attack and won it. At the beginning of the third set the guests immediately went up 16-6 and never looked back. The fourth ended up being more even, although the Czechs led throughout it with a minimum of two and a maximum of four points. Czech outside hitter Viktoria Dvorakova was the top scorer with 17 points.
The Slovenian women were the favorites in the first Group B match against Slovakia. However it took five sets played to prove it. For the winning team, the top scorer ended being the opposite Taja Gradišnik Klanjš?ek with 17. But it was also the outside hitter Julija Grubišic Cabo who had an excellent match with 13 attack points on 63 percent hitting. In the second game of this group, the Israeli women did not have a real chance against Hungary, who showed that they also are a serious candidates for the tournament win. In the third match, Israel was not really competitive against Slovakia, while the fourth match was perhaps even sort of an announcement on who will win the first place in the group. Slovenia defeated a real solid Hungarian team only in the fifth set, that ended with 15-8. In five sets, Slovenia scored as many as 13 points through their service pressure, while committing 19 direct errors. Slovenian women were better not only on receiving service, but also in the attack with Taja Gradišnik Klanjšcek as the most effective on the floor with 21 points. “We played two tough and long matches. But we managed to win, which means we have an open path to the semifinals of the tournament, “said the head coach of the Slovenian national team, Samo Miklavc, after the last game of the day.
Photo Credit: Croatian Volleyball Federation