FM WU18 RUSvsBRA (9)

Russia are the first team from Pool D guaranteed in the Round of 16 of the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship as the reigning European champions were on the winning side of a five-setter against Brazil on Wednesday to claim their third victory in the tournament.

In the other match of the night at the Auditorio del Pueblo, in Durango, Mexico, Slovakia celebrated their first victory in the tournament, a 3-1 win over Bulgaria. Competition continues in Pool D on Thursday, when Russia meet Argentina and Brazil face Slovakia.

After the first three days, Russia sits alone at the top of the standings with three wins and are guaranteed in the Round of 16. Brazil, Argentina and Slovakia have each won one of their first two matches while Bulgaria is still winless after three games.

In one of the most closely-contested matches of the tournament so far, Russia reversed a 2-1 deficit to beat Brazil in five sets. In a match with a single-point difference (100-99), the Europeans had in their potent offense the main difference (64-53) as the Brazilians compensated the Russia blocking advantage (10-7) with an aggressive game from the service line (9-5).

The effectiveness of their middle blockers was one of the keys for the Russian victory as Natalia Suvorova was the top scorer of the match with 22 points (18 kills, three blocks, one ace) while 2m-tall Varvara Sergeeva came off the bench to score 16 (12 kills, four blocks). In the Brazilian side, outside hitter Nicole Oliveira, with 19 points (16 kills, two blocks, one ace) and opposite Larissa Mendes, with 18 (12 kills, two blocks, four aces), carried the team’s offense.

“Playing against Brazil is always very emotional, it’s a wonderful feeling,” setter Viktoriia Kobzar, the Russian captain, said. “We tried to do our best the entire time and even when they won the second and third sets, we were still able to keep our focus. We were aware about the mistakes we made in the sets we lost and we tried our best to fix them. This match showed our character.”

It was also a positive day for Slovakia, which prevailed in the all-European duel with Bulgaria to win their first match in Durango. The team coached by Marek Malicky took advantage of the 39 mistakes made by the Bulgarians and added to it slightly superior performances on offense (39-33 kills) and at the net (9-7 blocks) to build the result.

Deana Valentova scored 12 points in the Slovakian triumph

Deana Valentova scored 12 points in the Slovakian triumph

Opposite Radka Haskova carried the Slovakian offense with 16 points (nine kills, five blocks and two aces), but was significantly helped by outside hitters Alexandra Fricova and Deana Valentova, who scored 12 each. Middle blocker Ivayla Chavdarova, outside hitter Hristina Peeva and backup opposite Viktoria Dimitrova were Bulgaria’s joint top-scorers with ten points each.

“To win our first match at the World Championship is really special,” middle blocker Kamila Slivkova said. “We knew this wasn’t going to be an easy match, but we fought for every ball. It was a very nervous and emotional match. We played as a team, fought until the end and are really happy we managed to win. Hopefully we can win our next two matches too, we’ll certainly fight for it.”