Aix-en-Provence, France, June 10, 2018 - A Stephen Boyer-led France pleased the home crowd as Les Bleus' march towards the FIVB Volleyball Nations League finals continued unimpeded on Sunday with a 3-0 (31-29, 25-16, 25-15) victory over Serbia.
The Chaumont outside hitter was an offensive power with 15 kills while superstar Earvin Ngapeth and highflying Thibaut Rossard also made contributions, claiming 15 and 13 points respectively.
Serbia struggled with 21 miscues plaguing the team that Uros Kovacevic's 11 points, including 1 block, couldn't compensate. Srecko Lisinac also chipped in but was limited to just 8 points as Les Bleus completely dominated the aerial battle with 14 blocks to Serbia's two.
After both dominating South Korea and Argentina, France and Serbia, considered two of the best teams in the world currently, clashed in Aix with one goal in mind: maintaining their winning streak. Circumstances are different for both sides, however, as hosts France is guaranteed a spot in the Final 6 and Serbia is still well in contention for the same.
Once again, coach Laurent Tillie opted for his usual starting six, with the exception of Kevin Le Roux, who was rested. The absence of the Rennes blocker didn't seem to faze Les Bleus as they raced to an early 4-1 lead. But the Serbs have proved in the past they are a formidable opponent and quickly clawed back into the game off the wings of Uros Kovacevic (18-15). In front of a partisan crowd, the French made the best of a last-minute rally to level at 22-22 as Earvin Ngapeth finally found his mark. The French superstar, backed by heavy hitter Stephen Boyer, led his side to an impressive counter-attack to claim the first set (31-29).
With the wind in their sails, the "Team Yavbou" started brightly, taking a four-point lead early on (6-2). And, with Ngapeth and Boyer in top form, the French seemed unstoppable as they increased their lead even more at 11-4. To the delight of the home fans, France kept the momentum as Thibault Rossard was brought in to lead the charge: the Asseco Resovia Rzeszow player claimed a couple of thunderous spikes that split up Serbia's usually well-oiled machine (20-10). The Balkan side appeared to be responseless and allowed the home team to easily claim the second set thanks to another Boyer point (25-16).
The third was tense with both sides fighting tooth and nail for the lead. Uros Kovacevic on one side of the net, Thibault Rossard on the other were instrumental for their team but, in the end, it was the Frenchman who did the job as Les Bleus reached the first time out with a two-point lead (10-8). Serbia's block seemed like they were caught in the storm and unable to find a way out as France bagged spike after spike to, once again, increase its lead at (16-10). The French carried the momentum, thanks to another Ngapeth stunner, and wrapped it up at 3-0 following a deft Ngapeth kill (25-15).