Jelena Nikolic spikes against a double block as Serbia battles with Belgium in a thrilling five-setter
Macau, China, June 19, 2016 – Serbia finished Pool D play with an impressive win over Belgium 3-2 (24-26, 26-24, 25-23, 23-25, 15-10). Serbian Brankica Mihajlovic ruled at the net, scoring 31 points for her team.
Serbia had won six of the last seven matches against Belgium and their winning ways continued today as despite numerous encounters on European stage, Belgium and Serbia met for the first time in World Grand Prix ranks. This match was also Serbia’s third consecutive five-set match. Brankica Mihajlovic led Serbia with 27 kills, 3 service aces and one block, while Mina Popovic contributed 6 blocks. Lise Van Hecke led Belgium with 20 kills and Laura Heyrman had 8 blocks.
The Serbian’s started slowly, trailing Belgium by three early on but they quickly recovered to take a one-point lead at the first technical time out. From that point forward both teams battled for control but neither team could produce more than a four-point lead. Down by three points, Belgian star Lise Van Hecke was knocked down in the back row by a powerful spike from Serbia’s Brakocevic. Belgium picked up its play after this and consecutive blocks by Laura Heyrman gave the lead back to Belgium 24-23. Heyrman, who dug a spike from Mihajlovic and sent the ball into the back corner, scored the final point of the set.
Serbia started stronger in set two, taking an early 12-7 lead. The Belgian’s took a time out to regroup and it paid off as they scored nine of the next thirteen points to tie the match at 16-16. From that point the teams battled to 23-23, with neither team grabbing more than a one-point lead throughout. The Serbian block took control at that point, denying the Belgian side a much-needed kill. Mihajlovic closed out the set with an impressive kill from the back row.
Set three was a terrific battle as neither team could manage more than a two-point advantage. The first sizeable lead for Serbia came courtesy of Mihajlovic who completed two consecutive kills to give her team a 23-19 lead. That proved too much for the Belgians to overcome as Serbia captured the set 25-23.
The fourth set was much like the third as neither team could build a sizeable lead. Britt Herbots used her float serve to give Belgium the lead at 22-19. Mihajlovic came to the service line and brought her side back into the match at 22-22. But it was the Belgium defense that took control of the set and the Serbians could generate little offense as Belgium took the set 25-23.
The fifth set saw the Serbian’s rush out to a 7-2 lead, thanks in part to Zivkovic, who earned four points with her float serve. Belgium did manage to close to within three points but it was too little too late. It was Mihajlovic who closed out the match with a service ace.