FM WU18 MEXvsARG (30)

Argentina and Slovakia will be the first teams to meet for a second time at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship in Durango, Mexico, after South Americans and Europeans won their first matches in the playoffs to determine positions from ninth to 16th on Monday.

The teams, which first played each other on Friday, the last day of pool play at the Auditorio del Pueblo, will clash again on Tuesday. The Slovakians, who won the first meeting 3-1, advanced with a four-set victory against Canada while the Argentineans progressed after they shut hosts Mexico down also in four sets.

Argentina came from behind to find their best game and turn the tables on Mexico and win in four sets. The South Americans’ inconsistent game, which generated 36 points in errors for the hosts, who limited their mistakes to 25, almost costed them the match but their superior offense (58-38) was enough to give them the edge.

Argentina’s diversified offense saw five players reach double digits in scoring in middle blockers Agustina Campanella (16) and Avril Garcia (13), opposite Valentina Vaulet (13) and outside hitters Nicole Perez (11) and Milena Margaria (10). Mexican’s scoring efforts were concentrated in outside hitter Aime Margarita Topete, who tallied 16 points, and middle blocker Sara Cantu, who produced ten.

Mexico has a very strong team,” libero Victoria Caballero commented. “We made some mistakes in the beginning but then adjusted our blocking-defense system and after we took control of the match we knew how to close it. When our defense improved we also limited the number of mistakes and that helped us winning. Yesterday match was really fiery and we knew we had to enter this one with the same mentality. We brought all of our energy and were ready to fight for the match.”

The Slovakians recovered from a slow start, which allowed Canada to win their first set in the tournament, to dominate the next three and take the match. The Canadians had a clear strategy of risking their serves, which paid dividends as they outscored their opponents in aces (14-11) and blocks (9-5), but also led them to make 42 errors, way too many when compared to Slovakia’s 24.

Opposite Radka Haskova hits to score one of her five points in the match

Opposite Radka Haskova hits to score one of her five points in the match

Captain and outside hitter Alexandra Fricova topped all scorers with 13 points (11 kills, one block, one ace) and was the only Slovakian player to score in double digits. Canada had two players in that category in opposite Lauryn Hovey, with 12 (eight kills, one block, three aces), and outside hitter Olivia Boulding, with 11 (six kills, one block, four aces).

“The Canadians were serving really well at the beginning and we had problems with that,” middle blocker Nina Boledovicova analyzed. “They got several aces and our passes were all over the place, so it was difficult for us to play. We gradually started passing and serving better and that helped our offense. From that moment on, we dominated the match. It was really hard for us to play after yesterday as we lost a really close match. When Canada started well, we didn’t really know what to do but then we moved forward and were able to play our game. Finishing among the best 12 teams is already a great result for us but we’ll fight with everything we have to be ninth.”