European Youth Championships | 15 Jul 2023

U19 Girls: Spanish lesson of team spirit

One common characteristic among all four teams from Spain is their fantastic team spirit. Regardless of whether it is a boys' or girls' team, in the Under 15 or Under 19 category, in Gliwice you can hear the enthusiastic cheering from the bench after each point. In the case of the Under 19 Girls' team, this team spirit acted as a catalyst, propelling them one step higher and securing their place in the Round of 16 at the ORLEN European Youth Championships.

In Group A of the Group Stage, the leading team in the event, Romania, reigned without interruption. Ioana SINGEORZAN, Elena ZAHARIA, and Bianca MEI ROSU confidently secured their spot in the top 16 by winning against Spain, Sweden, and Belgium in straight matches.

"We came here for gold. Last year, we lost in the final and we hope to go one step higher this time. This was just the first hurdle, and I am happy that we secured our place in the Round of 16 as planned," said ZAHARIA.

However, it was Spain in the same group that took charge of the momentum. Despite being initially ranked third, they secured the second place and directly advanced to the Round of 16.

In the opening round, Spain found themselves trailing 0-2 but managed to recover and win the match against Sweden.

"In that match, the key to success was Silvia COLL, who defeated Agnes SVENSSON. She changed the course of the match. Despite being behind, we did not lose faith. From the bench, we pushed Silvia and Eugenia SASTRE to give their maximum. I played against Leah MUSKANTOR in the decisive match, and at that point, psychologically, we had the advantage by recovering from 0-2 to 2-2. The pressure was on their side, and I won my match in straight games," explained Ainhoa CRISTOBAL.

Before the start of the third round, Spain had already suffered a 0-3 loss to Romania and had a close victory against Sweden, winning 3-2. On the other hand, Belgium lost to Romania and defeated Sweden 3-1. Therefore, the Spaniards were aware of the challenging task that lay ahead of them.

"We were aware that we were playing for a ticket to the Round of 16. It didn't help knowing that we would face Lilou MASSARAT, who is so difficult to beat with her style, pimples, and rubbers. We had already calculated that Lilou would win her two points, and we couldn't afford any mistakes in the other matches. Eugenia SASTRE gave us a dream start with her win over Sara DEVOS, but Silvia COLL couldn't find a way to stop Lilou despite having a 2-1 lead. MASSARAT won in five games. I beat DUVIVER in another intense match to secure our second point, but Eugenia couldn't stop Lilou either. Lilou remained calm and precise. However, we didn't let the opportunity slip away. We screamed from the bench, cheered, jumped, and supported each point with all our might. We had trust in Silvia to decide the last match in our favor. She started well, had a 2-0 lead, but Sara read her service-return game, managed to win one game, before COLL sealed the match in a close finish of 13-11," said CRISTOBAL.

Unlike in Group A, Group B saw a lack of drama. Germany, represented by Mia GRIESEL, Naomi PRANJKOVIC, and Lea LACHENMAYER, showed no mercy against Slovakia, Slovenia, and England, cruising through the group stage with three 3-0 victories. Slovakia, when not facing Germany, also displayed dominance against the remaining two teams in the group, securing their spot in the Round of 16.

Poland shone in front of their home crowd. Anna BRZYSKA, Zuzanna WIELGOS, Ilona SZTWIERTNIA, Wiktoria WROBEL, and Natalia BOGDANOWICZ defeated Portugal, Czechia, and Lithuania to secure the leading position in Group C. Portugal finished second with only one defeat.

In Group D, France faced some pressure in the match against Ukraine, who surprisingly emerged successfully in the second position in the group. The top seeds defeated Croatia and Moldova with 3-1 victories but needed all five matches to overcome Ukraine. Ukraine, having lost only that close encounter against the favorites, secured their place in the Round of 16 by defeating Croatia in another thrilling five-match battle and defeating Moldova 3-1.