Bulgaria, Colombia off to blinding start in race for 2019 Women's VNL


Valerin Carabali of Colombia attacks past the Peruvian block of Kiara Montes and Diana De La Pena as the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup gets underway in Lima.

Lima, Peru, June 20, 2018 - Bulgaria and Colombia inched just that little bit closer to a berth in the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League, when they opened their campaigns at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup with wins on Wednesday over Australia and Peru respectively. Only one of the six participating teams in the VCC gets to qualify, but the two opening day winners have pracatically made it to the semifinals.

European Golden League winners Bulgaria got the tournament off to a good start with a convincing 3-0 (25-11, 25-16, 25-15) win over Australia, putting up a solid block (five stuffs from Mira Todorova alone) to stop the 'Volleyroos'. Hristina Ruseva led the way in the scoring department with 13 points, while no one else from either side managed double digits.

Moreover, Bulgaria capitalised on 24 unforced errors of the Australians, while only conceding 14 of their own.

"We are very happy on how the team played today," said Ruseva after the game. "I am very proud of my team and I think we all played really good volleyball today. It is the first time we play against Australia and it was a bit surprising because we are more used to European volleyball. Luckily, our serve and attack were our good elements. Regarding our next game, Puerto Rico is a good team and we will start thinking about them now. We came here to win and we hope that is how it will end for us."

"I believe we had a very nervous game today," admitted Australia coach Shannon Winzer. "At the beginning of the first set we really gave it a fight and I don't believe we held anything back. Sideout was a problem for us, we struggled to score against them. They are a very big, fast team and they blocked really well. When we put some pressure and aggressiveness on the serve we got them out of system but overall we let them play in it. First games are always hard, our next one we want to go with less nerves and I believe we will be a better team tomorrow."

Australia's Caitlin Bettenay gets stopped by the Bulgarian block of Hristina Ruseva and Silvana Chausheva on the opening day of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup in Lima.

Colombia smash past the hosts
Colombia overcame the hosts' resistance in the first set and carried on for a clean sweep 3-0 (26-24, 25-12, 25-12), led by Dayana Segovia and Amanda Coneo who scored match-high 16 points each. Colombia battered Peru from all sides, outblocking (15-4 stuffs) and outserving (6-0 aces) the hosts.

"We are one step away from the semifinals but we remain concentrated, playing our game independently of the opposition," commented Segovia after the game.

Clarivett Yllescas, captain and best scorer of Peru with 11 points said after the defeat, "the first set was very close, we fought point by point, but in the following we lost our rhythm and we could not get back to our level."

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