Rested Russian squad beats Poland to advance to VNL Finals gold-medal match

Photo courtesy of the FIVB

The day off that Russian coach Tuomas Sammelvuo opted to give his starters for the semifinals worked out pretty well.

Russia with its full core of starters back on the court defeated Poland 25-19, 26-24, 25-22, 25-21 on Saturday in Chicago to advance to the gold-medal match of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals.

Before the semifinals, Sammelvuo made the decision to rest his starters for the team’s pool-play finale against the United States on Friday. Russia had already clinched a semifinal berth entering the U.S. match, which it lost in three games, and was slated to play matches in four consecutive days if it reached the gold-medal match.

Russia in its semifinal victory finished with 11 aces, including a match-high five aces from outside attacker Egor Kliuka.

Kliuka also was one of three Russian players with double-digit kills against Poland.

Opposite Victor Poletaev led all players with 21 kills on a 67.7 percent offensive efficiency. In addition, Kiluka added 12 kills, while outside attacker Dmitry Volkov contributed 11 kills on a 50.0 percent offensive efficiency

Poland outside attacker Bartosz Bednorz had a team-high 13 kills. He also was the only Polish player to have more than seven kills against Russia.

Russia and Poland defensively each had 11 blocks in the semifinal match. Despite the loss, middle attacker Norbert Huber led all players with five blocks and middle attacker Karol Klos had four blocks.

Poland responded from a 5-2 deficit to tie the fourth game at 7-7. However, Russia went on another run midway through the game and led by as many as seven points en route to winning the game and ending the match.

Russia rallied from a three-point deficit to tie the third game at 16-16. With the game still tied at 19-19, Russia scored the next three points and went on a 6-3 run that Kiluka capped off with a game-winning block.

Poland in the second game rallied from a five-point deficit midway through the game and won in overtime to avoid facing a two-game deficit. Poland in that game had five aces and on the game-winning point its serve forced Russia out of system and resulted in a block.

Poland was attempting to advance to its first gold-medal match in the Volleyball Nations League or this annual tournament predecessor the World League since winning the championship in 2012.

Poland advanced to the semifinals after beating Iran and Brazil in the pool-play stage of the Finals.

Russia will play the winner of the United States and Brazil in the gold-medal match on Sunday. Russia is trying to become the first repeat winner of the Volleyball Nations League or World League since Brazil in 2009-10.