Iran made a solid display in the first set as they cruised to an 8-3 lead at the first technical timeout. The Iranian led 18-11 then coach Slobodan Kovac decided to give his star setter Saied Marouf and middle blocker Seyed Mousavi some relief from the tough plays with the Argentine side. Mehdi Mahdavi and Armin Tashakori came in the match but the impact was not as strong as Seyed and Marouf’s presence. Nonetheless, the Iranians still finished with a commanding lead in the first set 25-15.
Iran took command of the first technical timeout of the second set 8-6 but a tight point-by-point exchange ensued until the second technical timeout, where Argentina finally took the advantage. Argentina scored two more points that forced Kovac to call a timeout at 18-15. Argentina led 21-19, when Mousavi took matters to his own hands on offence and defence to fuel a comeback and the eventual win for Iran 25-23.
Iran dictated the pace in the third set with an 8-2 and 16-10 leads at the technical breaks. Argentina defenders made a good effort to put the ball back in play that saw Luciano De Cecco with a solo block to cut down the Iranian advantage 18-14. Iran kept a firm grip of their advantage and steadily closed the set 25-15.
Serbia: Jovovic, N.Kovacevic (15), Podrascanin (6), Atanasijevic (20), Nikic (7), Lisinac (16), Rosic (L) and U.Kovacevic (2), Petric (1), Starovic, Petkovic USA: Christenson (4), Sander (19), Lee (1), Anderson (20), Lotman (9), Holt (7), E.Shoji (L) and Smith (14)
Atanasijevic collected points from the very beginning, pacing Serbia to 8-6. USA got into the game after some floated serves from David Lee, but when Serbia stopped failing, they recovered control. Atanasijevic first unleashed a 121 km/h serve for a 19-18 score and then held off USA with his attacks, towards the end. Milos Nikic completed the quest by 25-23.
However, USA managed to maintain a close plot. Smith entered the court and renewed the American spirit, as Anderson also did well to advance to 18-15 and 21-18. Smith gave a handful of set balls to his side (24-20), but Serbia fought back with Nikola Kovacevic and Atanasijevic to vanish all of them. Both teams exchanged points until Smith, with a soft serve, finished the set for USA 31-29.
The momentum remained for USA as Anderson shone from the service line in the third set. The opposite delivered some powerful serves – including an ace to create a 13-8 lead, while Serbia showed several difficulties to regain the level of the first chapter. USA breezed past their rivals to 20-14, Holt provided the first set point at 24-16 and a failed European serve established the 25-17.
Once again, service was the key for USA as Smith added his third ace for a 9-7 score. Maxwell Holt joined with a block and the American side improved to 12-9, but a while later Serbia attempted a comeback led by Lisinac and the game got tied at 17-17. However, Anderson dug up a tough ball and then smashed for a 21-19 that knocked out Serbia. Holt added an ace and Anderson blocked the final 25-21.
Australia: Sukochev, White (12), Zingel (8), Carroll (4), Douglas-Powell (9), Mote (4), Perry (L) and Edgar (16), Peacock (2), Passier (4), Roberts (3) France: Toniutti (6), N’gapeth (16), Le Roux (8), Rozuier (24), Tillie (16), Le Goff (11), Grebennikov (L) and Jaumel
Australia raced to a 6-3 lead in the first set but later on allowed France to shift the momentum to their side and built their own advantage 22-18. Some faulty attacks by the Frenchmen brought the lead to within two markers as the Australians jammed Rouzier’s attacks. The French opposite somehow redeemed himself with an attack from the right side and assisted on a block to close the first set 25-22.
France had a better start in the second set and led 8-2 at the first technical timeout. The French attackers were highly efficient on their offence that kept the Australians at bay whenever they would spark up a run. France secured the second set easily 25-18.
In the third set, Australia managed to lead 14-13 but their block did not hold off Rouzier’s offence that switched the lead 21-19 in favour of France. Australia forced France to a deadlock in the closing moments of the set. As France was about to close the set at 24-23, a long rally favoured Australia in a challenge call as N’gapeth hit the net on the play, forcing another deadlock at 24-all. A series of lead changes occurred until the French defence collapsed as Thomas Edgar found an open court for an attack, followed by a service ace to extend the match to a fourth set 32-30.
France easily recovered from their fourth set blunder, while the Australians had a defensive meltdown. France took the set and match 25-17.
Italy started the game playing their best set of the tournament so far. Lanza was hard to control for the Polish defence and Vettori served an ace to settle the Azzurri at 11-7, while the host side couldn’t find their pulse and made things even smoother. Dragan Travica mastered in handling the Italian play as the gap widened to 19-12, and it wasn’t long until the final Polish mistake that gave shape to a 25-19 score.
The white and red team reacted with a spirited Fabian Drzyzga instead of Paweł Zagumny, sparking life into the local attackers. Wlazły stood at the helm with 8 points throughout the set and Kubiak helped to create leads of 12-10 and 17-13. The Polish fans were also a player as the Atlas Arena vibrated with a stronger and stronger team. Wlazły scored three times in the end and a failed Italian serve wrote down the 25-18.
The third act began leveled and although Italy stepped ahead first (10-7), Poland immediately answered with Drzyzga and Wlazły combining for a 13-12 score. However, it took a little longer for the home squad to break free, but Michał Winiarski finally used his serves to elaborate a 20-18 distance. Kubiak, Dawid Konarski and Karol Kłos chipped in and Poland sealed the set by 25-20.
Once again, Italy rushed in the first track (5-2) and Emanuele Birarelli held Poland off towards a 14-12 score, but then Wlazły appeared in his best version to change the course of the set. The local star pierced a hole on the Azzurri block at 19-18 and fired an astonishing serve to stretch to 20-18. Poland held on to those two points with Kubiak and, even though Italy achieved a 24-all score, the host team managed to side-out and Winiarski put the final block at 26-24.
With the club team season nearing its end, here is my prediction for NT invitations this summer. I think the core of the team will be the same as last year, plus some new/returning players on OH position and hopefully some old faces not returning anymore. Problem positions are still the same: we have no […]