The Bulgarian team holding hands to the sound of the national anthem before a Challenger Cup game in Peru
Lausanne, Switzerland, August 9, 2018 – The national team of Bulgaria are intensifying their preparations for the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship in Japan. The Balkan Lionesses are ready to test themselves in a number of friendly matches planned for the weeks ahead and are finding ways to keep the team spirit high both on and off the court.
In the first phase of the World Championship, Bulgaria will play in Pool B in Sapporo, together with the teams of Canada, China, Cuba, Italy and Turkey.
Bulgaria’s coach Ivan Petkov and captain Hristina Ruseva
“At first sight, the names of our opponents may seem frightening to the fans, but in line with the ambitions that we have and the desire to reach new heights, we should not be worried about that within the team,” coach Ivan Petkov commented. “I am not saying it will be easy, but we are definitely not afraid. It is important that we show a good game, good growth and the right mentality to stand a chance against these solid teams and move forward.”
Despite the absence of star players like Elitsa Vasileva and Dobriana Rabadzhieva, who will miss the World Championship because they will not be able to completely recover from their injuries in time to prepare for the biggest volleyball event of the season, coach Petkov has reason to be confident.
Since he took over the national team before the start of the season, Bulgaria have had an (almost) impeccable run on the way to topping the podium at both the CEV Golden European League and the FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup, thus securing a spot in next year’s Volleyball Nations League. They are hoping that a good result in Japan will put them in a favourable position to target the Olympic quota for Tokyo 2020.
After resuming their preparations for the World Championship on July 17 in Sofia, on July 30 the 19 members of the extended squad moved to Panagyurishte, where they are currently training at Arena Asarel. In addition to those who battled it out for the two prestigious trophies earlier this season, Ivan Petkov called on a few more young talents to join the roster.
“Yes, some of our key players are missing, but we have alternatives and we have to find new solutions,” Ivan Petkov added. “After all, for all of these players it is a great honour to compete for Bulgaria and I am sure they will give their best and contribute solidly to the team effort.”
Building the team spirit is the key element to coach Petkov’s approach to training the squad.
“We are feeling great, we are united and well motivated ahead of the World Championship,” middle blocker Hristina Ruseva, captain of the Bulgarian team, confirmed. “We are training at a nice new hall. The conditions are excellent! We have the privilege of conducting our physical preparation under the guidance of the well-known conditioning coach Julian Karabiberov, who has devoted his entire time to us.”
Even during their time off between practices, the players have proved that team efforts help to produce the desired results. Having found a small homeless puppy, lost in the streets around their hotel in Panagyurishte, they took it in and have been looking after it together ever since. They even launched a social media campaign to find a new home for tiny Ayra. “We are finally relieved because we found good people to adopt and take care of our new mascot Ayra after we leave camp,” captain Ruseva added. “I am also happy, because all of us took to heart the fate of this little puppy and this further fostered our team spirit.”
With this newly reinforced team spirit, the squad is now ready for its first friendly matches – against Belgium, which will take place on August 9 and 10 in Panagyurishte. Next week the Lionesses will travel to Azerbaijan for three games against their hosts on August 17, 18 and 19. A journey to Italy will give the Bulgarian team the opportunity to test their skills against Turkey, Canada and Germany on August 29, 30 and 31.
Before finally taking off for the venues of the World Championship, Ivan Petkov’s selection will play two friendlies with Serbia on September 6 and 7 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Even after they arrive in Japan mid-September, the Bulgarians will play two games against the Dominican Republic before the official start of their World Championship campaign on September 29 against Italy.