France Thursday

French players celebrate their triumph over Vietnam (Photo: French Volleyball Federation)

Hosts France and Ukraine secured the first two spots in the women's semifinals of the FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup 2023 by winning their quarterfinal matches on the opening day of the tournament, in Laval, on Thursday.

French and Ukrainians will now meet in the semifinals of the fourth edition of the event, on Saturday, at the Espace Mayenne, and the winners of that encounter will be just one victory away from the title and from a spot in the Volleyball Nations League 2024.

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The quarterfinals continue in Laval on Friday, when the last two semifinalists will be known. Mexico will play Sweden in the first match of the day, at 17:00 local time (15:00 UTC), while Colombia will meet Kenya later, at 20:30 local time (18:30 UTC).

In the opening match of the tournament, hosts France gave no chance to Vietnam, claiming the first spot in the semifinals with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-16, 25-17) victory over the Asians in front of their home fans.

French opposite Lucille Gicquel was the team’s leading scorer with 18 points (14 kills, three aces, one block), followed by team captain and outside hitter Héléna Cazaute, who tallied 17, with 13 kills, three aces and one block.

“We didn’t know what to expect because Vietnam have a playing style we’re really not used to playing against,” Gicquel commented. “We had a little bit of a slow start and also some nerves at the beginning, but we got the 3-0 win and that will help us in terms of confidence. In the semifinals, we’ll face a team that will probably demand more from us and we’ll have to step up our game too.”

Vietnam’s outside hitter and team captain Thanh Thuy Tran Thi was the match’s top scorer, with 21 points – 20 kills, one block.

Volleyball Challenger Cup – Match Schedule and Results

In the second match of the day, recently-crowned CEV Golden League champions Ukraine topped Croatia 3-1 (25-15, 25-15, 18-25, 25-19) and buried their opponents’ dream of returning to the VNL in 2024 – the Croatians appeared in the event for the first time in 2023 but were relegated as the lowest-ranked challenger team.

Opposite Anastasiia Kraiduba was the main scorer in the Ukrainian triumph, leaving the court with 19 points to her name (18 kills, one block). Outside hitters Oleksandra Milenko and Yuliia Dymar got 17 and 13 points, respectively.

Croatia got 16 points (ten kills, two aces, four blocks) from middle blocker Božana Butigan and 12 (11 kills, one ace) from opposite Andrea Mihaljević.

The semifinals of the Volleyball Challenger Cup will be played on Saturday and the medal matches are scheduled for Sunday.

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Volleyball Challenger Cup 2023
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