Serbia beat Great Britain in their first European League game

2010 CEV European League – Women
Kladovo, Serbia, June 11, 2010.

Janine SandellIt was an imposing prospect for G.B; entering the scorching Jezero stadium, made hotter by 2000 cheering fans, and facing the towering team that the majority of the fans were there to support. Serbia were the picture of confidence, but G.B put up a sterling fight, holding their own against on of the top 10 teams in the world.

G.B. had a rocky start that put Serbia in the lead (4-1) pretty quickly, but they found their footing and nearly managed to equalise before the first technical timeout, which saw the score at 8-6 to Serbia. During the midgame, both teams seemed fairly well matched until Serbia got into their stride, scoring a streak of five points, which forced G.B into a double substitution. Eventually Rachel Bragg managed to put a point on the board, but the damage was done and Serbia took the first set 25-16.

G.B never let the score gap get as large again, and had the lead for the early points of the second set. Serbia were never far behind though, and managed to inch ahead by the technical timeout, leading 8-7. Another close midgame meant that Serbia were never more than a couple of points ahead, but both teams were plagued by errors, racking up five service errors each. G.B. stumbled towards the end, though, allowing Serbia to race ahead with another five point streak, albeit punctuated by a time out, three G.B. substitutions and three G.B. errors. G.B could not pick themselves up and Serbia won 25-18 with a savage attack from Jovana Vesovic. The third set had a similar rhythm to the second, with G.B taking another early lead, but being beaten to eight points at the last minute; 8-7 to Serbia again. Serbia soon began to pull ahead again, and despite valiant efforts G.B couldn’t close the gap, largely due to blocking errors brought on by powerful attacks from Serbia. A couple of successful attacks from Bragg late in the game brought the scores a little closer, but eventually Milena Rasic finished the game, 25-19.

So, the result seems to be what everybody expected; Serbia 3 Great Britain 0. But the scores show that G.B. held their own against Volleyball giants, which both surprised the Serbians and encouraged the G.B team.

G.B Captain Lynn Beattie kicked off the following press conference by saying: ‘It was always going to be a tough match, because Serbia have so much more experience. But we caused them a lot of problems with our varied offence. We need to be more consistent tomorrow, particularly with our serving, we made lots of errors there today. I think there are a lot of positive things to be taken from the match.’ She seems upbeat, despite the loss and is clearly keen to try again.

Maja Ognjenovic, captain of the Serbian team, was next to speak and started by complimenting G.B on their improvements since the last match they played against each other: ‘I’m glad we managed to conduct the kind of game we had planned, but Great Britain did very well and showed decent resistance.’

Coach Audrey Cooper congratulated Serbia for winning their first ever European League game and went on to say ‘it was a good game, and we’ve certainly gone up a level since last time. But we still made too many mistakes. We need to increase the pressure tomorrow and bring more intelligence to our game.’

The press conference was wrapped up by Serbian coach Zoran Terzic, who said ‘I’d like to thank the audience, they made a big impression. It’s the kind of audience every sportsman wants to play in front of.’ He went on to say: ‘I was very surprised by the quality of Great Britain’s team, but ultimately Serbia are a team of a higher standard. Although I wasn’t satisfied with our blocking power today, and our defence didn’t do very well. Hopefully we’ll be able to improve on that tomorrow.’

Whether G.B can up their game enough to break through that Serbian defence remains to be seen, but for now the girls are pleased with their performance and are concentrating on improving it for tomorrow’s game.

Will Shelmerdine

Photo: © CEV