Lublin, Poland, August 1, 2015 – The Netherlands out-lasted the Czech Republic 25-21, 25-14, 27-25 Saturday afternoon in the first semifinal of the FIVB World Grand Prix Group 2 Finals being held in Lublin, Poland.
Lonneke Slöetjes sparked the Netherlands with 17 points and captain Maret Balkestein-Grothues chipped in 15 points. Tereza Vanzurova led the Czechs with 13 points and teammate Helena Havelkova charted 9 points. The Czechs out-blocked the Netherlands 11-9, but 21 Czech errors were too much to overcome.
Both teams entered the match with hopes of securing a ticket for Sunday’s final match. Experts saw the Netherlands as biggest favourites for the Group 2 crown as they had only lost one point during Preliminary Round. On the other side, the Czech Republic had managed to steal a point from Puerto Rico and one set from the Netherlands in the Intercontinental Round but had suffered many difficult situations as well.
There was not much to separate the two teams in the beginning of the opening set. The Czech Republic had a two-point advantage at the first technical time-out but the Oranjes quickly bounced back to tie the game at 12-12. The Czech ladies kept the rhythm high to gain a four-point lead at 18-14 before the Netherlands, with four consecutive points, levelled the game again at 18-18. It was the crucial moment of the first set as the Dutch never looked back until 25-21.
The team of coach Giovanni Guidetti continued to put a lot of pressure on the Czech receivers early in the second set. At 5-5, the Oranjes took advantage of a Czech blackout to score seven points in a row and make it 12-5 for the Netherlands. The East Europeans never recovered from this setback and eventually suffered a crushing 14-25 set loss.
The Czech ladies did their best to change the tables in the third set, but a 16-13 lead and a set ball at 25-24 were not good enough to stop the favourites from the Netherlands who secured their well-earned ticket for Sunday’s World Grand Prix Group 2 final match with a 27-25 set and 3-0 overall win.