The very first edition of the WEVZA U16 Girls’ Championship started on Wednesday in the Spanish city of Valladolid. The tournament lived its inaugural day with three thrilling matches. The hosts of Spain and the Netherlands opened their campaign with straight-set wins over Portugal and Switzerland, respectively. More emotions followed with the last match of the day. Italy and Belgium fought for four sets with the young Azzurrine triumphing in the end, this way bringing to a close the opening day of a competition featuring the Volleyball stars in the making from the countries that make up the Western European Volleyball Zonal Association (WEVZA).
Spain beat their neighbours from Portugal in three consecutive sets (25-17, 25-11, 25-17) in a match that started with a lot of mistakes from both sides. The Spaniards managed to keep calm and eventually took control of the game. The girls trained by Fortunato Sánchez dominated the end of the opening set and extended their control to the second one claiming it by a landslide 25-11. Portugal tried to find their way back into the match opting for many substitutions to start the third set with. However, Spain continued with their solid performance and also kept their mistakes down to a minimum to celebrate a very important three-set win.
“We started very nervous, making too many mistakes. Out of the first 15 points scored by Portugal, nine came from Spanish errors. We finally calmed down and after that we dominated the entire game. Now we got rid of the pressure and we hope to perform a lot better for the remainder of the tournament,” said Fortunato Sánchez, coach of Spain.
The Netherlands also needed only three sets (25-22, 25-19, 25-22) to edge Switzerland in an inspired match for the Dutch team. The ‘orange girls’ delivered a superb performance at attacking and blocking to impose their rule in the first and second sets. However, a Swiss reaction put the tie in the scoreboard, thereby triggering a thrilling final rush in set 3. The Netherlands, however, showed nerves of steel and a very solid overall performance to celebrate their first win at the first ever WEVZA U16 Girls’ Championship.
“My team was very excited about this match. There was a fantastic atmosphere, and I have to praise the work which has been done by the organisers here. After two months of training, this is the first time we got to compete. It is difficult to know how long it takes to become a real team. Switzerland delivered a great performance in the third set but we could turn things around in the end,” said Dutch mentor Arnold van Ree.
Italy showed much resilience and fighting spirit in coming back from one set down to claim their first win in the tournament, edging past Belgium by 3:1 (20-25, 25-14, 25-18, 25-14). The Italians were caught by surprise in the opening set where the players around coach Robin De Bont delivered a superb performance to make it 25-20 in their favour in the end. However, the young Azzurrine clawed back vigorously to sweep three sets in a row and bring the match to an end after dominating the remainder of the game.
“I am very happy because we could win our first match in this tournament. We managed to control our feelings and emotions. In the first set we made several mistakes but luckily we could reverse the score. After that we played with consistency, made fewer mistakes and this way we could control the match through to the end. Today, it was a fireproof for us. We have worked hard to be in this championship, and this victory is very important for us,” said Italian mentor Pasquale D’Aniello.