Montreux, Switzerland, May 31, 2016. The opening match of the 31st edition of the Montreux Volley Masters saw host-nation Switzerland face off against World Cup silver medallists, Serbia. It was the visitors who took the plaudits from this eagerly anticipated opening clash, brushing aside their young opponents 3-0 (25-10, 25-19, 25-17).
Maja Savic was one names that particularly stood out from the Serbian team, her contribution of 12 points proving critical for the visitors in keeping their hosts comfortably at arm’s length throughout the match. Her calm and composed performance, along with the points haul from teammates Sanja Malagurski and Mina Popovic (9 each) will also provide Serbian fans with great optimism for their team in going further in this competition.
On the other half of the court, the Swiss can take heart from the performance of Maja Storck, who even in the face of Serbia’s dominance of the match stepped up to the plate to register an exceptional return of ten points for the hosts.
The opening set began with the Serbs looking to quickly stamp their authority on the game, and they quickly came out of the blocks taking the first point through Mina Popovic. The Swiss however were determined to make a game of it against the visitors and showed their own aptitude on court with an exceptional block by Elise Boillat to briefly lead the set 2-3 to the delight of the home crowd. The Serbs however soon got back into the driving seat, Bianka Busa, Sanja Malagurski and Maja Savic showing impressive blocks of their own, helping their team romp to victory in the opening set 25-10, forcing seven errors from their opponents with their aggressive attacking play.
In the second set, the Swiss, buoyed by their spirited performance late in the first set rallied from an early two point deficit to level at 2-2 through Laura Kunzler, and from then they kept the Serbs at a stalemate for some time, until at 12-12, the visitors notched their game up a gear and they once more began to pull away, clinching the second set 25-19 to put themselves firmly in charge.
At the start of the third set, the Swiss fought valiantly to try to get a foothold back in the game, with Storck’s five third set points helping maintain a two point lead for much of the opening exchanges before a long spell neck and neck with the Serbs. The pendulum however was to swing back the way of the visitors, as they snatched a 13-11 lead before Ana Bjelica’s impressive 8 point plunder sent them coasting to a 25-17 third set victory.
In truth, the Serbs never looked in any real danger throughout the match and were able to rather comfortably see off their more inexperienced opponents, despite the Swiss putting in a spirited performance. With a strong statement sent out already in this year’s tournament, they already seem to be living up to their billing amongst the favourites, and will be looking to go all the way in Montreux to build momentum ahead of the Olympics. They will look to continue their good form in their second Pool B fixture against potential dark horses Thailand (Wednesday 1 May, 9:15pm CET), which on this showing may prove to be a thrilling encounter.
The Swiss in comparison can still take plenty of positives from their brave performance against Serbia and carry that into their following game against the Netherlands (Wednesday 1 May, 4:30pm CET) where they will be hoping to kick-start their campaign at the second attempt.