Maria Martinez punches through the Puerto Rico block of Pilar Marie Victoria and Ana Sofia Jusino as Colombia advance to the final of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup in Lima.
Lima, Peru, June 23, 2018 - Bulgaria and Colombia will battle it out in the final of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup Sunday after both scored wins over hosts Peru and Puerto Rico respecitvely in Saturday's semiifnals. The winner of the VCC takes in the only open spot in the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League, after the relegation of Argentina this year.
With scoring from all around and five players reachig double digits, Bulgaria dominated on the net to counter for Peru's defending and shut out the hosts 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-18). The Balkan side has so for not dropped a single set in the competition.
Mariya Karakasheva and Gergana Dimitrova from the outside scored 13 and 12 points respectively, while Hristina Ruseva and Mira Todorova added another 11 and 10 from the middle. Opposite Silvana Chauseva nicely rounded up things with 10 points of her own.
Karla Ortiz was Peru's best scorer on 12.
"In general it wasn't a good game for us," said captain Ruseva after the game. "We need to play with more focus tomorrow against Colombia, because we came here to win this tournament. Peru have a good team with good defense and they have all the fans to suport their team."
"It was really very difficult game for us because Peru are here at home and they gave everything," added 30-year-old Karakasheva. "They played so strong in defense and also in service."
Colombia survive first set to make final
Earlier, Colombia had avoided going two sets down to Puerto Rico and had turned the other semifinal around for a 3-1 (23-25, 27-25, 25-10, 25-18) win that put them in the final.
Dayana Segovia scored 21 points and Amanda Coneo another 20, propelling themselves to the top of the overall best scorers list of the tournament. Despite the tight first two sets, Colombia dominated Puerto Rico in all skills, with 13 blocks to 5, 4 aces to 1 and a 33% (60/177) to 30% (54/179) attacking efficiency.
"This victory is a great experience for us because in the Pan American Cup last year we could not beat [Puerto Rico] but today we are left with the win," said Colombia's Brazilian coach Antonio Rizola. "Puerto Rico fought to the last point and I think after the first set we regained our tactical discipline and that allowed us to win the game."
"We made a lot of mistakes in the first but we knew how to recover," added captain Maria Alejandra Marin. "Puerto Rico always had a good attitude, they defended a lot and they never lost their spirit, so I think playing against them is always hard. I think that maintaining concentration was a key element to win."
"They [Colombia] have been the most consistent team in this competition," analysed Puerto Rico coach Abdel Otero. "They did not lower their rhythm when they fell back in the score and our reception was very inconsistent."
Both Sunday's matches - the bronze medal match and the final - are available to watch live on the FIVB YouTube Channel:
Quick links: FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cups