Chicago, USA, June 17 , 2018 - Aleksander Atanasijevic was the Serbian hero once again as Poland’s American nightmare continued following another straight-sets 3-0 defeat (25-23, 25-23, 25-23) to leave their VNL final hopes in real danger.
The Serb powerhouse blew Iran away on Saturday night with 32 points and he was bang on the money against the wobbling Poles with 20 more as the Balkans kept alive their dreams of finishing in the top six and making the showpiece finals in Lille.
Serbia, roared on by their excitable fans, have moved into sixth place and will head into the final week of clashes with Canada, Japan and China full of confidence.
The opposite spiker, however, wasn’t the only hero for Nikola Grbic’s side - Uros Kovacevic bagged 14 points while Srecko Lisinac was a key man in defense and attack, notching three aces and producing some memorable digs.
“After the first two games we changed our energy and we have done much better, “ said Lisinac. “We aren’t looking at the table too much. We will just concentrate on how we are playing."
For Poland, this third 3-0 loss compounded a horrible weekend in Chicago for the one time VNL table-toppers and with Argentina, Australia and Brazil next up, the heat is firmly on Vital Heynen’s side.
They were in this match yet kept conceding the lead before buckling under intense Serb pressure. Bartosz Kurek - 14 spikes, two blocks and an ace - was the top scorer but just didn’t have the support to end their wretched run of form.
Poland, who have now slipped to fifth place in the standings, actually out-blocked their opponents 10-7 but, crucially, were out-spiked 44-37.
All three sets were dramatic, close affairs but it was Serbia, inspired by their soccer team winning at the World Cup earlier in the day, who deservedly emerged victorious.
The scores were locked at 17-17 in the first but soon after, an error from Damian Schulz handed the Serbs a set point and although it wasn’t taken, Lisinac produced the goods from the service line before another mistake saw the men from the Balkans nab the opening set.
It was the same old story for Poland in the second - an unhelpful error tally of 13 helping Grbic’s men - but they still managed to get into a lead only to be pegged back once again.
Two amazing digs from Lisinac seemed to deflate Poland and helped build confidence before Kurek touched the net and in a flash, Serbia were two up and flying.
Heynen was cutting a miserable figure on the sidelines and his mood darkened as a massive block from Kovacevic helped rub out another lead and seal the deal to leave Poland with plenty to ponder.