Gergana Dimitrova attacks for Bulgaria opposite the Puerto Rico block of Alba Hernandez and Natalia Valentin at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup in Lima.
Lima, Peru, June 22, 2018 - Puerto Rico take on Colombia and Bulgaria clash with hosts Peru as the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup comes down to the semifinals on Saturday. The winner of the VCC advances to next year's FIVB Volleyball Nations League, replacing Argetina who were relegated this year.
Peru on Friday claimed the last remaining berth in the semifinals with a solid 3-0 (25-14, 25-11, 28-26) win over Hungary. The European side were left winless in the competition and eliminated after pool play. Colombia had already secured top position in Pool A since Thursday.
Peru applied pressure from the service line, scoring ten aces (to Hungary's one). A change of setters for Hungary, with Fanni Bagyinka starting in the third set instead of Reka Bleicher, brough some equilibirum to the game, but the hosts got it right in the end. They were led in scoring by outside hitter Karla Ortiz who bagged 12 points, with captain Clarivett Yllescas adding another 11 from the middle.
Hungary's Reka Szedmak tries to get past the Peruvian block of Clarivett Yllescas and Brenda Uribe at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup in Lima.
"Our team did a great job on the court," said Peru coach Carlos Aparicio. "The girls played together and complied with the tactical strategy we had set."
For Yllescas, everything went as planned: "Although we knew that they were better than us in size, we were able to develop our tactical strategy and do a lot of damage with our service to help build our block. We are a very compact team, with the strength of each individual player making us a great family."
"We knew from the start it was going to be difficult with just eight players available and no libero," said Hungary coach Jan de Brandt. "We suffered a lot in reception in the first two sets and had to improvise with some players so we could stay in the game. At the end we recuperated a lot of balls but needed to concentrate better on defense. Overall we are very happy on how Peru has treated us and are very grateful for the experience."
Bulgaria take top spot
European Golden League winners Bulgaria scored their second straight-set in as many games at the VCC, as they thundered past Puerto Rico 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-14), to finish atop Pool B, earlier on Friday. Puerto Rico finsihed second to also advance to the semifinals, leaving Australia in bottom place, winless and eliminated.
Opposite Silvana Chausheva was top scorer of the game on 13 points, with captain Hristina Ruseva contributing 12 from the middle and Gergana Dimitrova another 11 from the outside, as Bulgaria dominated in every skill.
Bulgaria celebrate victory over Puerto Rico for first place in pool play at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup in Lima.
"We played a really good match today, our volleyball level was great," said Bulgaria coach Ivan Petkov after the game. "I really want to congratulate my players, my technical staff, everybody in general."
First of all, we are very pleased to finish top of the group because that was our first goal," added Ruseva. "Puerto Rico have really good, strong, high-level players, but we managed to do a good game focusing on the technical guidance the coach gave us. Now we start thinking about the semifinals and expect to have as great results as in the pool."
"I think a generational change was necessary in Puerto Rico, because there were players who had been playing for more than ten years," analysed Natalia Valentin, the Caribbean team's captain. "This new group is part of the project for our main objective which is to qualify for the Olympic Games. It is a very talented and disciplined group and we also learn quickly from our defeats so tomorrow we will go out and give Colombia fire."
Both Saturday's semifinals are available to watch live on the FIVB YouTube Channel:
Quick links: FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cups