Russia retain European Girls' U18 title after nail-biting final


Viktoriya Pushina celebrates surrounded by her teammates as Russia retain the European Girls' U18 title.

Lausanne, Switzerland, April 9, 2017 - Russia defended their European Girls' U18 title Sunday evening in The Netherlands, outlasting Italy 3-2 (18-25, 25-16, 26-24, 21-25, 15-10) in the final for their third gold overall in the history of the competition after 1997 and 2015.

Italy had the opportunity to go 1-2 up when they came back from 21-15 in the third set to lead 21-22. But Russia cancelled the sole set point of the Italians and went on to clinch the crucial set.

Valeriya Shevchuk led a very well-balanced Russian scoreline with 15 points, as Tatiana Kadochkina added 13, and Viktoriya Pushina and Olga Zvereva another 11 each. Although the Russians did well in stopping Terry Ruth Enweonwu at crucial moments in the game, the 16-year-old Italian was top scorer of the game with 26 points.

But Italy conceded 34 unforced to just 17 from Russia who completed a faultless tie-break.

Previously, Belarus rallied from 10-13 down in the tie-break and with captain Hanna Kniazova pressing from the sevice line grabbed five straight points and snatched the bronze medal out of Serbia's hands 3-2 (17-25, 29-27, 25-17, 22-25, 15-13). Hanna Hryshkevich with 24 points and Vera Kastsiuchyk with 21 carried Belarus to their first podium appearance in 16 years - since winning another bronze in 2001.

It was the second straight and third overall tie-break in the competition for Serbia, who a day earlier had gone all the way and lost to Italy in the semifinals.

Hanna Hryshkevich of Belraus stretches to try and tip the ball past the Serbian block of Jovana Mirosavljevic and Isidora Rodic in the bronze medal match of the Girls' U18 European Championship.

In other classification matches on Sunday, Slovenia swept Germany 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-20) for 5th place and The Netherlands beat Poland 3-1 (25-12, 25-12, 23-25, 25-23) for 7th.

The top six teams qualified for the 2017 FIVB Girls' U18 World Championship, 18-27 August in Rosario and Santa Fe, Argentina. Japan, China, Korea and Thailand from Asia, Argentina (as hosts), Brazil, Peru and Colombia from South America, and the Dominican Republic, USA, Cuba and Mexico from NORCECA are already qualified to the world event.

Final Ranking:
1. Russia
2. Italy
3. Belarus
4. Serbia
5. Slovenia
6. Germany
7. The Netherlands
8. Poland
9. Romania
10. Bulgaria
11. Turkey
12. Greece

Dream Team:
MVP: Terry Ruth Enweonwu (ITA).
Setter: Rachele Morello (ITA).
Opposite: Terry Ruth Enweonwu (ITA).
Outside hitters: Elena Pietrini (ITA) & Valeriya Shevchuk (RUS).
Middle blockers: Viktoriya Pushina (RUS) & Yuliya Kisliuk (BLR).
Libero: Mila Kocic (SRB).

Full results, match reports, pictures and statistics on the European Confederation website.

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