London, Great Britain, July 25, 2011 –
Serbia finished the London Prepares International Invitational on a high thanks to a straight sets win over Mexico at Earls Court on Sunday as they took top spot on the podium ahead of Brazil and USA as the tournament drew to a close. Meanwhile hosts Great Britain sealed their second win of the tournament as they beat Egypt to finish fifth, showing continued signs of improvement ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games next year.
Serbia’s 3-0 (25-21, 25-11, 25-14) win over Mexico was their fourth in five games, with their only reverse coming in a surprise defeat by Egypt on Friday. For Mexico it was a fifth straight defeat in a tournament that has seen them pick up just one set: against Great Britain in a 3-1 loss on Wednesday. With Serbia’s London Prepares dangerman Nikola Kovacevic rested from the match, Sasa Starovic was Serbia’s leading scorer, registering 12 spikes on his way to a points total of 18. Starovic was ably backed up by Milos Vemic, who took advantage of an extended run on court to amass 13 points. Mexico captain Gerardo Contreras battled hard for his side, who pushed Serbia close in the first set but found themselves out-classed the rest of the match. Contreras grounded nine spikes to end as Mexico’s top scorer both in the match and in the tournament, where he registered 34 points. For Serbia, who brought four members of their Beijing 2008 Olympic Games squad to London, victory brought to a close a successful warm-up tournament.
Brazil and USA put on a five-set thriller in the final game of the tournament but had to settle for silver and bronze respectively as Serbia took home the title. After two hours and 12 minutes of closely contested Volleyball, and plenty of fluctuating fortunes, it was Brazil who took the honours by defeating USA 3-2 (25-21, 22-25, 25-27, 25-16, 18-16) in a close match. Having eased into an early lead, taking the first set 25-21, the Brazilians were rocked as their opponents, led by the spiking of Evan Patak and Matthew Anderson, won the next two sets. If Brazil were unnerved by letting that lead slip, they did not show it and quickly struck back with a relatively comfortable fourth set win (25-16) to set up a rousing finale in the tournament’s first five-setter. By going to a fifth set, Serbia were crowned the London Prepares champions, their 12-point total from five matches unsurpassable by Brazil or USA. Luiz Fonteles and Wallace De Souza were leading the way for Brazil, but in a tense and exciting final set, USA earned themselves match point at 16-15. The Brazilians kept their nerve, though, to win three successive points and with them the gold medal.
Great Britain closed a successful tournament for the host nation with a 3-1 victory over Egypt in the penultimate match of the competition. The win – by 25-18, 21-25, 25-22, 25-23 – was the second recorded by the British players in the six-team tournament, following on from a 3-1 opening day triumph over Mexico. Oluwadamilola Bakare was again the star for the side as he scored 27 of his team’s 96 points, including an impressive 23 spikes. Ably assisted by the likes of Andrew Pink, Nathan French and Christopher Lamont, Bakare’s performance helped Great Britain finish in fifth place in the table. For the Egyptians, for whom Ahmed Abdelhay was outstanding throughout, the London Prepares events has brought mixed fortunes.
Despite defeats by USA, Brazil and Great Britain, impressive 3-0 wins over Mexico on Saturday (23 July) and, perhaps more unexpectedly, Serbia on Friday (22 July) will give them confidence.
Photo © Lynne Marshall