Cyprus handed out a warning to their rivals in their opening match at the CEV U19 Women’s Volleyball European Championship Small Countries Division finals with a 25-3, 25-8, 25-5 demolition of Northern Ireland. In an impressive opening set from the Cypriots, Northern Ireland’s only points came on errors and Vasiliki Chatzikonstanta served for 21 unanswered points as the lead stretched from 2-1 to 23-1.
It was almost a case of serving practice for Chatzikonstanta, who varied her serve with the same lethal touch, but the spell ended when she served into the net, giving the Irish their second point.
In the second set Northern Ireland fought for every ball and were rewarded when they won three successive points from 5-20 to 8-20, including a service ace from Zara Hegarty. But Cyprus kept up the incessant pressure, leading 13-0 in the final set. Emilia Demetriou brought up match point, and after a net fault was called on Styliani Konstantinidou, Cyprus shut out the match at the end of a spirited final rally.
“I was happy with the way we played. Our philosophy is to apply pressure with our serve and keep up that pressure,” said head coach, Petros Patsias. “The aim is to play at 95-96% and even if we reach 75%, then it will be difficult for our opponents.”
Northern Ireland head coach Amy Wethers admitted: “We just didn’t play – we can play a lot better than that. Maybe there were some nerves because it was the first match.”
The Irish improved in their second match, leading Scotland 3-0 early on but the hosts hit back to win in straight sets 25-13, 25-7, 25-10 after their service game improved. The Scots produced a tighter second set, leading 6-0 and then stretching away as the Irish wilted. Scotland visibly grew in confidence as the match wore on and finished convincing winners.
In the best match of the day, Luxembourg blew hot and cold but eventually saw off the Faroe Islands in five sets 25-8, 23-25, 23-25, 25-22, 15-9. Luxembourg dominated the opening set, coming back from 3-6 to take full control with some strong serving from Anne-Catherine Bollendorff. But the Faroe Islands hit back to win the next two sets, Luxembourg saving five set points in the third before giving it away 23-25. The Faroe Islands led 21-17 in the fourth set but Luxembourg stormed back to take the match to a tie-break set which they ultimately won 15-9.
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