Montreux, Switzerland, September 05, 2018 - Vadim Pankov’s Russia provided the perfect response to their opening day defeat against Brazil, turning on the style before a lively crowd at Salle Omnisports du Pierrier to oust debutants Cameroon 3-0 (15-25, 17-25, 13-25), keeping their hopes of reaching the semi-finals very much alive.
Jean Rene Bekono Akono’s Cameroon were historymakers in the limelight at the 33rd Montreux Masters as they became the first African team to compete at the prestigious exhibition tournament, but there would be no debut magic on their big day as they were ruthlessly exposed in a baptism of fire by a Russian side eager to make amends after surrendering a one-set advantage to slip to defeat against Brazil just a day earlier.
Cameroon scored their historic first point at the Montreux Masters and the first of the game after Irina Voronkova’s attempted spike flew out of play, but that was as good as it would get for Cameroon in the early exchanges as Russia motored ahead in an error strewn opening set which yielded four aces, two for each team. One of Russia’s beneficiaries was impressive Middle Blocker Irina Fetisova, who also chipped in with a great spike and a brace of blocks in key rallies to help the Sbornaya to a comfortable opening set point. The lively Fetisova capped an impressive individual set performance with the crucial point, rising above the net to hammer down late in the first set for a 15-25 score, putting Vadim Pankov’s side in the driving seat.
And the Russians set about extending their lead in the second set, a Ksenia Parubets spike and a powerful smash from Nataliya Goncharova sandwiching an Irina Zaryazko block point before a mistake at the net from Stephanie Fotso Nogoung saw the Sbornaya lead 4-10. Cameroon did show their quality in fits and starts through the second set as they briefly threatened a comeback, two aces from Fotso Nogoung, a well-worked set of spikes from Emelda Piata Zessi, Laetitia Crescence Mama Bassako, Christelle Tchoudjang Nana, Abdoulkarim Fawziya, and a stunning rally win clinched by Fotso Nogoung amongst the highlights. But whatever the Africans could do, the Russians seem to do better, Goncharova and Libero Daria Talysheva combining with a breathtaking double save to help steal a key rally point, whilst two delicate and classy touches over the net from the impressive Voronkova and Ekaterina Efimova kept the Sbornaya comfortably ahead. Irina Krotkova’s ruthless spike finished the set at 17-25, taking the Russians within one of their first victory of the 2018 tournament.
With a 2-0 overall advantage, the Russians never looked like taking their foot off the gas, spiking, blocking, and smashing their way into a 7-15 lead in the third set. With the trio of Zaryazko, Goncharova and Fetisova having a firm grip on proceedings for their team, Cameroon struggled to build any momentum to remotely threaten a comeback, an Efimova block and a spike from Natalia Krotkova easing Russia into a hefty 9-21 lead. After some brief African resistance, Efimova spiked down to take the game to match point, Ekaterina Lyubushkina converting at the first time of asking with aplomb; a hammer spike to hand her team a comfortable 3-0 victory following a 13-25 third set triumph.
Cameroon have little choice but to take their debut defeat at the Montreux Masters as a steep learning curve, their next game coming on Thursday as they aim to keep their hopes of progression alive against Poland (06.09.18. 21:15 CET). Meanwhile, Russia, with their semi-final hopes revived, prepare to take on the Poles themselves on Friday (07.09.18. 18:45 CET), knowing a win will all but see them through to the last four.