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The Netherlands, Azerbaijan off to flying start in race for Japan 2018

 
Lausanne, Switzerland, May 30, 2017 - Pool favourites The Netherlands, hosts Azerbaijan and the Ukraine made their mark on the opening day of Pool E at the European qualifiers for the 2018 FIVB Women's World Championship with a show of power that gives them a very early edge in the race for the single ticket to up for grabs.

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The Netherlands, who narrowly missed out on a podium finish at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after losing to reigning world champions USA in the bronze medal match, thrashed Denmark on Tuesday in Baku 3-0 (25-12, 25-13, 25-9).

It was coach Jamie Morrison's debut on the bench of the Dutch side, after the departure of Giovanni Guidetti following the Rio Olympics.

Without the need to play with all the regular starters for most of the match, The Netherlands prevailed easily with Anne Buijs scoring 14 points and Celeste Plak adding 13, including 71% in attack (12/17). Buijs served five aces as The Netherlands destroyed the Danish recpetion with 12 aces to none.

Yelizaevta Samadova led Azerbaijan with 18 points as the hosts swept Norway 3-0 (25-15, 25-10, 25-6) before some 2,800 fans in the Azeri capital. The Azeri attack of 38 kills in 63 swings (60%) was no match for Norway, who got 18/67 (27%).


Yelizaveta Samadova of Azerbaijan gets blocked by Norway's Julie Heile Mikaelsen in Baku.

The Ukraine wrapped up the day in Baku with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 25-15) victory over Israel, powered by join top scorers on 12 points each, Anna Stepaniuk and Svitlana Dorsman.

The Baku pool marks the start of an action-packed week across Europe. Four more Round 2 pools begin on Wednesday, with the top team from each advancing directly to the 2018 FIVB Women's World Championship in Japan. The second-ranked team of each pool with continue in Round 3 of the European qualifiers for two more tickets to Japan 2018.



Last week Rio 2016 silver medallists Serbia became the first team to qualify for the 2018 World Championship when they dominated their pool in Warsaw with an absolutely perfect record. The Czech Republic finished second in Warsaw after stunning hosts Poland for a second chance in Round 3 of the European qualifiers.

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