The Dutch volleyball players have qualified for the semi-finals at the European Championship. The team of national coach Avital Selinger in Bulgarian Plovdiv was 3-0 too strong for Sweden.
By Lisette van der Geest
After forced rejuvenation in the team, after the sledgehammer blow of missing the Olympic Games, the Dutch volleyball players are again in the last four in a major final tournament. After a strong eighth final against Germany, the Netherlands was also stronger than Sweden in the quarterfinals in Bulgarian Plovdiv.
The Dutch women were therefore the big favorite for the win. Sweden is the number 51 in the world ranking, the country that never got further than twelfth place at the European Volleyball Championship – and that was in 1983.
The Netherlands is ninth in the world ranking. Although it may be noted that the selection has undergone some changes in the past year: Robin de Kruijf and Yvon Beliën withdrew from the national team this summer after years of availability, Lonneke Sloetjes, one of the best diagonal players in the world for a long time, decided to to end career.
Sweden’s place in the quarterfinals was a big surprise. They won against home team Bulgaria, on the basis of Isabelle Haak, one of the best diagonal players in the world. Haak’s attacks were precisely what the Netherlands had a hard time with in the first part of the first set. That was difficult for the selection of Avital Selinger – this European Championship for the first time active again in an important championship as national coach of Orange since his appointment last year.
The Netherlands continuously faced a small deficit of 1, 2 or 3 points. Only at 15-15 is the tie on the board for the first time, at 20-19, at which point twenty-three minutes have already been played, the Netherlands takes the lead in the match for the first time, so as not to give it away anymore. After four set points, the win goes to the Netherlands with 27-25. The second set also goes to the Orange with conviction, it will be 25-16.
The Netherlands is a team under construction, the big goal is the World Cup in our own country next year. The volatility is characteristic; from dominating to sloppy, to unnecessarily lagging behind and dominating again. ,,Girls don’t play with fire’, Selinger warns during a time-out after Sweden has scored several times in a row. “Don’t be lazy, just play smart.”
But also the third set eventually goes to the Netherlands with clear figures, with 25-19.
Tomorrow the Dutch women will fly to Belgrade for the semi-finals. The opponent will be Italy or Russia, the quarterfinals will be played tomorrow.
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