Montreux, Switzerland, June 4, 2016 - Belgium’s Yellow Tigers can leave the 2016 Montreux Volley Masters with their heads held high, having salvaged fifth place the hard way with a 3:2 tiebreak win (25-22, 27-25, 21-25, 18-25, 15-8) in their classification playoff match with Serbia.
The Belgians can take some consolation from their fifth place finish at the 31st edition of this prestigious invitational tournament after devastatingly missing out on the semi-finals, whilst seventh place will have to do for Zoran Terzic’s Serbia going into the Olympics.
With both teams out to make the journey home from Montreux a positive one, the teams started the first set neck and neck in a tight stalemate. There was an exhibition of top quality attacking; Opposite Ana Bjelica and Middle Blocker Mina Popovic with a handful of impressive spikes for the Serbs, while Wing Spiker Britt Herbots and their Opposite Lise Van Hecke responded with their own for Belgium. The Belgians grafted in some entertaining rallies to pull the set level at 18 points apiece, before a Laura Heyrman block turned the set on its head. Serbia defended resolutely with a great Maja Savic block, but Belgium blocked their way into unlocking their reception, Herbots rising above the net to hit the ball down with venom for a 25-22 first set win.
Now in front, Belgium immediately set about consolidating in the second set. The Yellow Tigers were narrowly outshining the Serbs in the rallies, the razor-sharp Herbots providing the Tigers’ cutting edge. The potent Bjelica was always a danger from Serbia however, her intelligent and powerful attacking play keeping the Serbs in the hunt, before a powerful Savic serve tore straight through Herbots. A rollercoaster set sped to a 25-25 stalemate, and eventually swung the way of Belgium, another Herbots hammer and a Charlotte Leys block clinching it 27-25 to open up a 2:0 lead.
The two sides were still inseparable through the majority of the third set. Both teams toe-to-toe, hot on each other’s’ heels, but Serbia seemed to finally find their rhythm and managed to pull clear of their opponents with the impressive Bjelica’s nine points hitting the accelerator to propel the Serbs to a 23-19 lead. A long serve from Belgium and a ball hit out by Aelbrecht gave the Serbs a 25-21 third set win to take the tie to a fourth set.
Suzana Cebic had stood out in the Libero role with some key saves for Serbia, and she strut her stuff again on court with a big recovery to give the Serbs the opening point. The teams however were inseparable once more as they tussled in some competitive rallies. The Serbians however continued their fightback with a strong show of attacking and key blocks from Ivana Djerisilo and Savic. Having gathered momentum, the Serbs hit their stride and powered into a seven point lead, with the instrumental Popovic showing finesse to score four critical points. Bjelica was at the heart of it again with four of her own to secure a 25-18 fourth set victory for Serbia and send the game to a tiebreak decider.
It was then that the Belgians rediscovered their spark. Determined not to be undone once more amidst the tension, they powered into a lead with Heyrman and Herbots bulldozing their way through the Serb reception. Serbia had no answer for the Tigers’ newfound aggression, and Lise Van Hecke’s cool dink over the net saw them over the finish line 15-8 to seal fifth place with a 3:2 win.