FM WU18 POLvsDOM (33)

European powerhouses Poland and Serbia booked their tickets to the quarterfinals of the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship, in Durango, with victories over the Dominican Republic and Peru at the Auditorio del Pueblo on Sunday.

Still undefeated after five matches, Serbia, which finished at the top of Pool A in the preliminary round, will now play Brazil. The Polish, which prevailed in four of their five matches so far, are set to meet European champions Russia in the quarterfinals. Both matches will happen on Monday at the FENADU.

After a competitive first set, Poland had no trouble imposing their stronger game agaist the Dominicans to take easier victories in the second and third portions of the match. The Europeans outscored the Central Americans in each skill, but the most impressive difference came in blocking, with the Polish benefiting from 17 stops at the net against just three from their opponents.

Middle blocker Natalia Kecher was in great form, tallying a match-high nine blocks to go with eight kills, which made of her the top scorer with 17 points. Outside hitter Karolina Staniszewska added 13 (11 kills and two blocks). Dominican Republic’s most productive player was opposite Ariana Rodriguez, with ten points (nine kills, one ace).

“We’re really happy that we won this match,” Polish captain Magda Stambrowska reflected. “It was the most important one in the tournament for us as if we lost, we’d have to play for ninth to 16th places, which really isn’t what we came here for. We were really focused and played very well. Blocking was our best skill today and that’s great because that wasn’t the case in our previous matches. Hopefully we can keep it at this level or even better going forward. Russia is a team we know well, they’re a really strong opponent and we’ll do our best to win.”

Serbia were able to keep their clean record despite of a slow start that costed the team the third set as the Europeans bounced back to shut Peru down in four sets. Serbia’s physical advantage was made evident as they dominated the match in kills (42-34) and blocks (18-16) to take the victory.

Tomic hits to score one of her 19 points in the match

Tomic hits to score one of her 19 points in the match

Serbia’s outside hitter Ksenija Tomic led all scorers with 19 points (16 kills, three blocks) while teammates Hena Kurtagic, middle blocker, and Vanja Ivanovic, fellow outside hitter, also reached double digits with 14 and 12 points, respectively. Peruvian captain Alondra Alarcon, the tournament’s top scorer, led the South American offense again as the outside hitter registered 16 points.

“I’d like to congratulate my team for winning the match but I don’t think we played our best game,” Serbia’s captain and setter Nina Mandovic analyzed. “We were a little bit tired physically and mentally and we hope that we can play better against Brazil. After losing the third set we were able to change our energy and I think we’ll play better going forward. We can reset really quickly, so now we just to develop a good strategy and get ready for tomorrow.”