Throughout whole tournament it’s definitely a biggest surprise here. Title defender, Serbia lost with Belgium after absorbing five-set game. Shining star was Belgian opposite, Lise Van Hecke.
BELGIUM – SERBIA 3-2 (23-25 25-21 28-26 21-25 15-11)
Line-ups and scores:
Belgium: Dirickx (4), Leys (10), Heyrman (1), Van Hecke (35), Rousseaux (4), Aelbrecht (9), Courtois (L) and Vandesteene (9), Coolman, Van Der Vyver, Bland (12)
Serbia: Ognjenovic (5), Nikolic (10), Rasic (22), Brakocevic (33), Molnar (3), Krsmanovic (11), Cebic (L) and Malagurski, Zivkovic, Veljkovic
Serbia jumped out for a quick 3-0 lead in the beginning of Saturday’s bronze medal match. Belgium’s head coach Gert Vande Broek immediately called his ladies off court to avoid an early deficit. Lise Van Hecke, Freya Aelbrecht and Hélène Rousseaux responded with three consecutive winners to draw level at 3-3. However, the ‘yellow tigers’ struggled with their passing to drop behind at the first technical timeout (5-8). Vande Break sent in Els Vandesteene for Rousseaux, but it had no impact on the result. At the second technical break, Serbia was still up with five points, 16-11. On Serbia’s side, Jelena Nikolic and Jovana Brakocevic moved the scoreboard forward with relentless missiles through the Belgian defense. Brizitka Molnar smashed for a 22-18 Serbian lead. Van Hecke concluded a never-ending rally with a well-timed tip but could not prevent Natasa Krsmanovic from seizing the fourth set ball for Serbia (25-23). Five blocks compared to one made the difference for Serbia in the first set.
The titleholders continued their run in the second set. The young Belgians did their best to keep the distance as close as possible, but could not deal with the power and speed of the Serbian offense at that moment of the match. However, at 12-8, the Serbian rush came to an abrupt end. Belgium scored ten (!) consecutive points to make it 18-12. Poor Serbian passing and outstanding Belgian defense work were the two main reasons for the sudden turnover. Brakocevic saved a first Belgian set ball at 24-20, but could not stop the ‘yellow tigers’ to draw level with a burning Van Hecke winner from back row. 21-year old Van Hecke was the main protagonist of the second set, scoring nine times for the spirited Belgians. Belgium had improved their blocking to four kills in the second period. Serbia had dropped to a single block winner.
Both teams still experienced many ups and downs in the beginning of the third set. Serbia led by one point at the first and technical break. Nevertheless, there was not much to separate the two teams until 20-20. Van Hecke, with a diagonal winner and a spectacular block kill on Nikolic, scored twice to make it 22-20 for Belgium. At 22-22, Rasic concluded a quick combination to draw level again. Van Hecke brought up set point for Belgium at 24-23 before Rasic, again, levelled the thrilling third set at 24-24. An Aelbrecht winner on the right side and a Brakocevic mistake from back row ended the third set in Belgium’s favour. Van Hecke (8 points) and Angie Bland (5) were the best scorers for Belgium. Brakocevic contributed 8 points for Serbia.
The hard-hitting battle continued in the fourth set. It needed all the power of Serbian superstar Jovana Brakocevic to keep the Serbian hopes alive. At the second technical timeout, the East Europeans led 16-14. Rasic opened the gap to three points at 21-18, forcing Vande Broek to ask for an additional break. It did not help as the Serbians never looked back. Brakocevic closed it out at 25-20 for the reigning champions with a searing winner from the left side. The Serbians had improved their passing to 43% in the fourth set.
Belgium regained momentum early in the fifth set (7-4). However, a Brakocevic block winner on Vandesteene and a sharp Rasic spike through the middle drew level at 7-7. No one could predict the winner at that crucial moment of the match. Van Hecke moved her team forward before Brakocevic fired back at 10-10. After a Krsmanovic mistake at 10-12, Serbia’s head coach asked for a timeout. It did not help as the Belgian express was unstoppable now. An Ognjenovic error ended the hard-fought duel in Belgium’s favour, 15-11 and 3:2 in 132 minutes.
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