Sweden and Ukraine will represent Europe in the upcoming women’s Volleyball Challenger Cup 2023 from July 27 through 30. The two teams went through the semifinals of the CEV European Golden League undefeated, thus qualifying for next week’s home-and-away final against each other and for the Challenger Cup, where they will have a shot at booking a spot in Volleyball Nations League 2024.
Ukraine and Sweden book spots in women’s Challenger Cup
The two teams advance to European Golden League final
Publicado 01:11, 29 Jun 2023
The two European League semifinals were also played in a home-and-away format. The first leg was held on Sunday and the second on Wednesday.
Swedish Generation O star Isabelle Haak hammered out 38 points towards her national team’s narrow 3-2 (24-26, 25-16, 16-25, 25-17, 18-16) home victory over Belgium played in Lund. Haak’s impressive tally included four aces and three kill blocks, as well as a 52% success rate in attack. Her teammate in the middle, Jonna Wasserfaller, did even better from the serving line with as many as six aces to her name.
The Swedes were more emphatic in Wednesday’s return game in Roeselare, when they mastered a 3-0 (25-20, 28-26, 25-17) shutout of their hosts, with Haak producing another amazing tally of 27 points (1 block, 59% in attack). Her sister Anna Haak added 11 points towards the victory.
“We are really happy with what we have achieved so far. We have worked hard and we are still at the beginning of our journey as a team,” said Sweden’s head coach Lauri Hakala. “Now we need to focus on recovery so that we can recharge for everything to come, the Golden League final, the Challenger Cup and the European Championship later this summer.”
Ukraine hosted their home match of the semifinal series against Czechia in the Romanian city Piatra-Neamt. With opposite Anastasiia Kraiduba contributing a match-high 20 points, including two aces, the Ukrainians cruised to a convincing 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-17) sweep. Outside hitter Oleksandra Milenko also reached the double digits with 13 points.
Coach Ivan Petkov’s players lost the first set of the away game in Tabor, but bounced back to take the next three and celebrate qualification. This time Milenko was the leading scorer with 21 points, including three aces and a block, towards Ukraine’s 3-1 (22-25, 25-11, 25-22, 25-16) victory over Czechia. Kraiduba put away 18 points (2 aces, 1 block, 63% in attack).
Nine national teams took part in the first stage of the European Golden League, split into three double-round-robin pools of three. Ukraine, Czechia and Belgium advanced to the semifinals as pool winners, while Sweden progressed as the best pool runners-up (second to Belgium in Pool A).
Ukraine will host Sweden for the first leg of next week’s final on Thursday. Haak and her teammates will entertain the Ukrainians for the return match on Sunday.