The men's and women's semifinals of the Volleyball Challenger Cup are set after the men’s teams of the Czech Republic and Türkiye and the women’s squads of Colombia and Puerto Rico advanced from the quarterfinals in Seoul, Korea, and Zadar, Croatia, on Friday.
Volleyball Challenger Cup semifinals set
The Czech Republic, Türkiye, Colombia and Puerto Rico claim the last spots
Published 07:12, 29 Jul 2022
Saturday’s Volleyball Challenger Cup men’s semifinals will see Cuba and the Czech Republic meeting in Seoul at 12.00 local time (3.00 GMT) and hosts Korea facing Türkiye at 15.30 local time (6.30 GMT). In Zadar, Belgium and Colombia will start their semifinal match at 17.00 local time (15.00 GMT) while hosts Croatia will duel with Puerto Rico five hours later to determine the two women's finalists.
Of the four teams that qualified on Friday, Colombia certainly did so in the most dramatic way. The South Americans nearly collapsed after winning the first two sets against France, but avoided two European match points before coming out on top of a nail-biting five-setter (25-17, 25-16, 22-25, 11-25, 16-14) in Zadar.
Outside hitter Ana Karina Gamboa was pivotal for the Colombian victory as besides producing a team-high 22 points (17 kills, three blocks, two aces) she also scored the final two points in the tie-breaker. French opposite Lucille Gicquel was the match’s top scorer with 24 (17 kills, six aces, one block).
“The match was really hard for us, but we fight until the end every single time and wouldn’t be different today,” commented setter and team captain Maria Alejandra Marin. “Now we need to rest and prepare for the semifinals, which will certainly be just as difficult.”
Puerto Rico earned their spot in the semifinals because of Cameroon’s late withdrawal from the event, caused by issues in acquiring their entry visas to Croatia, which forced the Africans to forfeit their match that was scheduled for Friday.
Türkiye opened the second day of competition in Seoul with a 3-1 (25-23, 25-16, 22-25, 25-15) victory over Qatar. Towering opposite Adis Lagumdzija led all scorers with 25 points (18 kills, five blocks, two aces) and was helped by outside hitter Burak Gungor, who added 14 (13 kills, one ace), while guiding his team to the semifinals.
“I believe the key for us was remaining in the game the entire time,” said Turkish captain and setter Arslan Eksi. “Qatar has a really strong team and they fought for every ball. We did a very good job in the first two sets and, although our level dropped a bit in the third, we were able to come back in the fourth and win by a wide margin. Hopefully we can play another good match against Korea in the semifinals.”
In the following match, the Czech Republic also needed four sets (25-16, 17-25, 28-26, 25-16) to take Tunisia down and secure the last semifinal spot among the men. The Europeans strongly relied on their trio of opposites Marek Sotola (13 points) and Indra Patrik (ten) and outside hitter Jan Galabov (12) to lead their offence, but saw Tunisian opposite Ali Bongui end as the match’s top scorer with 18 points (17 kills, one block).
“We didn’t know exactly what to expect from Tunisia and that made the match really difficult for us,” said Czech captain and middle blocker Adam Zajicek. “We managed to start the match in a good rhythm, but didn’t play so well in the second set. We felt that we were a little down physically and mentally in the last two sets, but we kept fighting and it worked. Cuba is a very physical team, so we need to rest and prepare for them.”