Katowice, Poland, June 15, 2017 – Opposite spiker Maxim Zhigalov
opened his third week of FIVB Volleyball World League with 13 points to guide Russia to a 3-0 victory of Poland (25-22, 25-17, 25-2) in Friday's action in Katowice.
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Zhigalov produced another strong performance, adding fives aces to his 13 points, four more than teammate Egor Kliuka
. Russia had a strong performance in defence with 10 blocks, outshining Poland's Dawid Konarski's
Poland (3-3) and Russia (2-4) headed into the third weekend hoping for a win as the race for the finale round in Curitiba is heating up. Tsvetan Sokolov leads the way for Bulgaria as the 27-year old is the 2017 World League's second best scorer with 100 points, just six away from Stephen Boyer of France.
Statistics favoured Russia, who won both of the countries' two last matches and lead the series 15-8, but all eyes were on the clash between Bulgaria's Nikolay Nikolov (0.86 avg by set) and Russia's Ilia Vlasov (0.79), the competition's two best blockers.
The first set was nip-and-tuck at the outset but Poland got their noses in front before surging into a two-point lead (6-8) after a confusing play that ended with a Polish challenge... immediately challenged by Russia's Sergey Shlyapnikov. To no avail. The home side increased the gap as its block prevailed (12-15). A nice rally after the technical time out saw Russia then leap ahead as Egor Kliuka spiked (20-18) and Vadym Likhoshertsov concluded with an ace in a tightly-contested set (25-22).
The Russians kicked off the second set with a bomb from the service line by Dimitry Volkov and a block by Maxim Zhigalov (4-1). The three-time World League gold medallists remain on top for the reminder of the set as Maxim Zhigalov and Ilyas Kurkaev made the best of the lack of teamwork from the Polish side (13-9). Not even Rafal Buszek's deft attempt could change the course of the set as Russia cruised to an confortable 25-17 win and a 2-0 lead.
A good opening from Poland saw the home hopes jump on top but their opponent quickly got back into the game thanks to a strong blocking (3-3). At that point in the game, the Poles don't have much of a choice and they know it. Dawid Konarski was the main weapon in attack for the home nation but Russia demonstrated tremendous solidity in defence as they started to snuff out the Polish threats (12-12). Two well-timed Volkov aces gave Russia the lead in the business end of the third set (20-16) and Poland never managed to come back as Egor Kliuka ended the game with a powerful spike.
Matches on Friday