Poland's women's volleyball team reached their first Olympics in 40 years with a hard-fought win over Serbia in the final qualifying round yesterday.
Poland’s 25-18, 25-14, 18-25, 22-25, 15-10 victory over the world bronze medalists made them the third team to reach the Beijing Games in August along with their opponents and Japan.
Both Poland and Serbia have a 5-1 record in the eight-team round robin with one match left to play.
The former European champions have not reached the Olympics since 1968, when they won their second successive bronze medal.
“I’m really happy for the victory today because it gave us the chance to go to the Olympic Games. And I’m really proud because the country couldn’t go for 40 years,” said Katarzyna Skowronska-Dolata, who starred in the win. “I hope we are able to go there and fight to show we are a good team. Volleyball is loved there [in Poland], the people are enjoying this sport and we are very happy to give happiness to the people.”
For Poland’s Italian coach Marco Bonitta, who guided Italy to glory in the 2002 World Championships, it will be his second Olympic Games.
“I have a lot of emotion inside me now because my team and Poland people have waited for this moment for long years. It’s very important because this is the most important competition in the world,” Bonitta said.
Serbia coach Zoran Terzic said that he rested some players because of injuries and fatigue.
“We won the bronze medal in the World Championships in 2006. We won the silver medal in the European Championships in 2007. And in 2008...” Terzic said, alluding to hopes his side can go one better in Beijing.
Earlier in the day, the Dominican Republic defeated Puerto Rico 25-23, 25-14, 25-18 to keep their Olympic hopes alive with a 3-3 record, sending Puerto Rico out of contention with a 1-5 record.
“There’s no doubt that tomorrow’s match [against South Korea] is very important. I expect it to be a tough match. South Korea are speedy and their combination is good,” Dominican Republic coach Beato Miguel Cruz said. “It’s a question of how we can slow them down and stop their quick attacks with our blocking. I trust my players and we have a chance to beat them.”
The winners of the tournament, along with the best-placed Asian nation and the two other best-placed teams from the remaining six, qualify for the Games in August.