Igor girls lose the third round in Sopot

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On Tuesday night Poland’s and Italy’s vice champions crossed their ways at Ergo Arena for the third round of action in Pool B of the 2016 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League – Women. The hosts of PGE Atom Trefl SOPOT and Italy’s Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA were under a lot of pressure as they needed a positive result in order to cement their chances to make it to the Playoffs. There were no more opportunities to miss out on and the players had to rise to the occasion. Although both PGE Atom Trefl SOPOT as well as Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA dreamed about their second victory in Europe’s finest competition, only the Polish team could celebrate in the end. The Atomic Girls did a great job, left their hearts on the court and provided 1,700 fans in attendance with something to cheer about with their 3:0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-21) home victory. However, despite the clear result, it was far from being an easy walkover for the home heroines.
 
After losing their previous home match to Turkey’s VakifBank ISTANBUL, the Dutch born outside spiker of PGE Atom Trefl SOPOT, Maret Balkestein-Grothues, had not lost her hopes that the team would bounce back: “I am sure that we still have a big chance to make the Playoffs, the most important games are still ahead – and especially the ones with Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA, they will be vital.” This declaration came true on Tuesday night.
 
The opening set started at a fairly slow pace, and after a close start PGE Atom Trefl SOPOT took a 12:9 lead via great actions of Katarzyna Zaroslinska who performed very well from behind the service line and in attack too. However, the visitors quickly found a way to stop the Atomic Girls and fought back to 13 all. The game remained tight almost until the end. Two points in a row by Zuzanna Efimienko at blocking changed the course of the game as the Atomic Girls broke away to 24:21. After that, Katarzyna Zaroslinska was the one who finished the set with the next action (25-21).
 
The home heroines caught a very good start in the second period (8:3) and dictated the pace all the way through the second technical time-out (16:12) and eventually brought the set to a happy end at 25-21. The team of Italian mentor Lorenzo Micelli showed no mercy for Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA and Italy’s vice champions were never able to fight their way back. The runners-up from the last edition of the Polish national league played better in every fundamental of the game and fully deserved this set win.
 
The third set was somehow a make-or-break call for the Italian visitors. They started full of motivation not to lose this game by 0:3. As a result, the team from Novara took an early two-point lead and were able to keep that same margin also at the first technical time-out (8:6). Halfway through the period, however, PGE Atom Trefl found their way back and seemed to be able to play at the same level they had shown in the first and second sets, making it 16:14 in their favour at the second technical time-out. Towards the end of the game Poland’s vice champions did not look back anymore and the hosts could finish it off at 25-21 and start celebrating a great 3:0 home victory.
 
Katarzyna Zaroslinska scored 19 points for the home team while Samanta Fabris registered 17 to top the scoring charts for Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA.  
 
«I am really happy that we won 3:0 today, it was very important for us. These three points will help of course in the standing of our pool but they will also boost our confidence,» commented PGE Atom Trefl setter, Danica Radenkovic.
 
«We knew that PGE Atom is a very strong team, but it was not the main point of our result today, as we are struggling with a few injuries and illnesses, and even though we did our best, today it was not enough to beat the Polish team. They have great reception, their opposite was playing perfect and we could not find a way to stop her. We have to work more on a few elements which we need to improve, and this applies especially to our block,» said Belgian spiker Hélène Rousseaux, who currently plays for NOVARA but spent a few years in Poland’s national league as well.   
 
Though there are still three more rounds to go for completion of the group stage and there is a re-match to follow in two weeks in Novara, the road to the Playoffs seems to get a bit easier for the Atomic Girls following this home win. Turkey’s giants VakifBank ISTANBUL remain the unquestioned leaders of the pool, but PGE Atom Trefl SOPOT and Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA will be trying to fight with the Turkish team as well as their players know that nothing is impossible, without forgetting rookies and underdogs Calcit LJUBLJANA of Slovenia who are determined to cause a sensation before their first adventure in Europe’s elite competition comes to an end.