Benjamin Toniutti watches on after setting up Stephen Boyer for the kill in France's sweep of Serbia at the 2018 Volleyball Nations League finals in Lille.
Lille, France, July 6, 2018 - France’s setter Benjamin Toniutti pulled out all the stops in the 3-0 (25-19, 25-18, 25-17) win over Serbia on Friday. Great passing and defending on the French side enabled him to let his offensive line shine.
France knew two sets to their name would ensure them a spot in Saturday’s semi-finals. But they had no intention of playing for just those two sets. An almost perfect reception line with Jenia Grebennikov and Earvin Ngapeth gave Toniutti the opportunity to play his absolute A-game. His pin-point accuracy benefitted his attackers, with Ngapeth top scoring on 17. France’s other wing spiker Thibault Rossard had a field day, scoring 9 out of 10 attacks.
Uros Kovacevic was determent to make up for his disappointing performance in Thursday’s match against Brazil, scoring six already in the first set. However, with three errors in service his total contribution to the 13 Serbian faults was also significant. He was the only Serbian player reaching double digits (10).
From the service line France was something special as well. Players were going full out for scoring aces. Rossard produced four unstoppable serves, both Ngapeth came up on three and Kevin le Roux added two to France’s total of 10 aces. France also led Serbia on blocking (5-3) and attack (43-32).
In the first set reception and defence of Grebennikov and Ngapeth was almost reaching perfection, giving Toniutti lots of room to play his outstanding setting game. The French pulled away from 15-15 and secured an 6-point lead, largely due to Thibault Rossard who managed to put 6 on the scoreboard, two from pipe attacks, two aces. France won 25-19 in the end.
It was again Rossard that pulled the trigger on Serbia, making sure France could book a ticket to the semi-finals after having just played two sets. On the lefty’s serve France increased the lead from 15-14 to 19-14, including back-to-back aces by the Resovia Rzeszow player. With Ngapeth on 7 points in set two, France was unstoppable (25-18)
With France being through to the final four, all that was at stake was top place of Pool A. Serbia’s substitutes were unable to put anything in harms way against this fabulous French force. Head coach Laurent Tillie gave his team the assignment to not let up, top spot in Pool A meant that USA would become tomorrow’s opponent in the semis. Last year’s World League champions put on a great show for the home crowd and cruised to victory (25-17).
The semi-final line-up is as follows:
14.00 France - USA
16.30 Russia - Brazil