Two spectacular five-setters unfolded on the first day of the Pool C FIVB Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifier in Xi’an. In an all-European clash, Belgium put up a big fight against mighty Poland to push the number one team in the FIVB World Ranking to five sets, before losing in the overtime of the tie-breaker. In another five-setter, 29 points from Netherlands’ Nimir Abdel-Aziz did not suffice for a win over a strong-willed Canada.
Belgium push Poland to nail-biting tie-breaker
Canada and Netherlands battle for five sets, Argentina and Bulgaria shut out opponents
Published 01:59, 30 Sept 2023
Led by opposite Lukasz Kaczmarek with 25 points, Poland managed to overcome Belgium’s tough resistance to celebrate a 3-2 (23-25, 25-20, 25-16, 21-25, 17-15) victory in an exciting five-set rollercoaster. In the first set, the Belgians managed to come back from a three-point deficit to take the lead in the match. The Poles trailed at the start of the second, but then gained control to level the score and dominated the third set to step in front. In set four, the lead changed hands several times, but after 21-20 Poland’s way, Belgium went on a five-point run to prompt a fifth. They maintained a two-point lead through most of the tie-breaker and had the first match point, but the reigning Volleyball Nations League and European champions fought on until a kill block by Aleksander Sliwka stopped the clocks at 17-15 Poland’s way.
Kaczmarek shared the top scorer honours with his Belgian counterpart Ferre Reggers, who also put away 25 points. The Polish opposite registered an impressive 65% success rate in attack, but middle blocker Jakub Kochanowski did even better with 81%. He also had three kill blocks and two aces to finish with 18 points, while Belgium’s second best scorer Seppe Rotty put away 17, including two aces and two blocks.
Earlier on Saturday, Canada came out on the winning end of a 3-2 (25-21, 23-25, 24-26, 25-18, 15-12) saga against the Netherlands. In the first set, the North Americans wiped out a five-point Dutch advantage to take the lead in the game. The Netherlands maintained a slight lead through most of the second set, but in the third, the Europeans had to come back from a four-point deficit to step in front on the scoreboard. Sets four and five were pretty much all about Canada. They dominated on the court to celebrate victorious at the end of the tie-breaker.
Canada outplayed the Netherlands in all scoring elements, except for the attack. Prominent opposite and captain Nimir Abdel-Aziz spearheaded the Dutch offence with a match-high 29 points, all in spikes, registering a 56% success rate. On the winners’ side, opposite Arthur Szwarc and outside hitters Stephen Maar and Eric Loeppky led the way with 19, 18 and 17 points, respectively.
In Pool C’s opening game in Xi’an, Argentina mastered a 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-19) shutout of Mexico with opposite Bruno Lima leading the attack with a match-high 16 points, while middle Agustin Loser authored seven of his team’s 13 kill blocks towards the victory. In between, outside Luciano Vicentin finished with 14 points. Diego Gonzalez Castaneda was Mexico’s best scorer with 11.
Bulgaria hammered out the most emphatic win of the first competition day and, to the home fans’ disappointment, it was against hosts China. The Europeans delivered a 3-0 (25-18, 25-19, 25-14) blowout on a 20-point match high by star opposite and captain Tsvetan Sokolov, including three aces and two blocks. Bulgaria’s outside Martin Atanasov and China’s opposite and captain Jiang Chuan posted 11 points each.