Vicente Parraguirre

Chile scored a historic first win at a Volleyball Challenger Cup competition to reserve the first spot in Saturday’s semifinals of the 2023 edition that got underway in Doha on Friday. Ukraine marked their Challenger Cup debut with a quarterfinal victory to advance to the semis and stay on track towards the big goal – winning the trophy and the ticket to the men’s Volleyball Nations League 2024 that comes with it.

The remaining two semifinalists will emerge later on Friday. The third quarterfinal, between Thailand and hosts Qatar, starts at 17:00 local time (14:00 UTC). Three hours later, at 20:00 (17:00), Türkiye and Dominican Republic will take to the court in a battle for the last vacancy among the best four.

  • Watch Volleyball Challenger Cup 2023 live on VBTV

Having competed at all three of the previous Challenger Cup editions, but lost all five of their matches, Chile finally registered their first victory at the start of their fourth appearance in the competition. In Friday’s first quarterfinal in Doha, the South Americans hammered out a 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-23) shutout of Tunisia and progressed to the semifinals. On Saturday, they will take on the winner of the quarterfinal encounter between Qatar and Thailand.

After 8-8 in the first set, the Chileans scored eight points in a row on Gabriel Araya’s serve to break away and never look back. The Tunisians stormed the second set on a 6-1 run, but their opponents caught up at 11-11 and pushed forward to double their lead. In set three, Chile had the lead for the most part. Tunisia drew level on a few occasions, but never managed to step in front. After 23-23, Vicente Parraguirre brought in match point with a successful spike, which captain Dusan Bonacic converted with a block-out kill for 25-23.

Over the three sets of the match, Parraguire delivered a fantastic match high of 33 points, spiking at a 60% success rate and adding two aces and two blocks. Oussama Ben Romdhane was Tunisia’s best scorer with 12 points to his name.

“This team has been working for a long time. We wanted to show the world what we were capable of, so we are very happy to win this match this way,” Parraguire said after the game. “The most important is that we never stopped playing. Even in the second set, after starting with 6-1, we kept playing until the end and that was the key to the match. We fought hard and we played very well until the end. I am very proud of this team!”

Ukraine finalized China’s VNL relegation with a 3-1 (25-19, 25-22, 23-25, 25-19) win in the second quarterfinal of the day in Doha and await their semifinal opponents who will emerge from the last quarterfinal on Friday, between Türkiye and Dominican Republic.

The Europeans were well in control of the first two sets, owning the net with their blocks and their swings, to take a 2-0 lead. Led by Yu Yuantai, China attempted a comeback in the third set. They wasted a four-point lead to allow Ukraine to step in front at 20-19, but regained control and managed to close the set at 25-23. The Asians opened a 7-3 lead in the fourth set again, only this time Ukraine caught up at 12-12, took over the scoreboard and cruised on to seal the victory with a clever tip by middle blocker Dmytro Teryomenko for the match winner.

Ukraine’s star captain Oleh Plotnytskyi was on fire to top the scorers’ chart of the match with 24 points, including three aces and three kill blocks. Opposite Vasyl Tupchii scored 18 points and Teryomenko added another 15, including three blocks. Outside hitters Yu Yuantai and Zhang Jingyin produced 16 and 15 points, respectively, for China.

“It was a really difficult match. In the third set, we lost focus and the fourth was the most difficult set for us, but we stayed together as a team the entire time to get some break points and that helped us,” Plotnytskyi commented after the game. “I think we are not in our best shape now, but I think we will find it in the next matches.”