Varna, Bulgaria, September 18, 2018 – Bulgaria fell short in their bid to defeat Poland for the tenth time at a World Championship. The Lions lost 1-3 (14-25, 25-23, 22-25, 23-25) in their last Pool D match finishing third while world champions topped the group in Varna with a 100% record.
It was the hottest ticket in town as the game was sold out months ago. There wasn’t an empty seat at the Palace of Culture and Sport in Varna as Bulgaria welcomed back Todor Skrimov who after injuring a calf against Iran was inserted into the starting line-up.
The hosts started with hopes of winning Pool D as they needed a 3-0 or 3-1 victory. Soon it became clear that the former is impossible. Poland outspiked and outblocked Bulgaria quickly building an eight point advantage en route to a 25-14 first set success. Szalpuk and Kurek were responsible for the last two points with solo blocks.
Bulgaria was unstoppable in attack in Set 2. Bratoev went 4-for-4, Skrimov scored six points from seven attempts and captain Yosifov hit a timely ace for the 25-23 win.
The momentum was short lived. Poland won 8 of the next 11 points after being 8-6 ahead at the first technical break to get what looked like an unsurmountable lead. But things got interesting when Bulgaria got within two at 20-22. That’s when Penchev, Nikolov and Gradinarov were guilty of consecutive serve errors to deny the comeback – 22-25.
Set 4 was nervous and mistake filled. Both teams struggled to put the serve in play after Bratoev’s ace tied the score at 16-16. Bulgaria led 23-22 but on the brink of the tiebreak Bratoev missed a serve, while Kubiak came big with a block and a spike for the Polish victory – 25-23.
Kurek ws top scorer for the winners with 21 points while Kubiak scored 18 and Szalpuk – 12. Valentin Bratoev was the only Bulgarian in double figures with 19.
World champions finished top of Pool with the maximum 15 points and will stay in Varna in Pool H in the second round. Bulgaria moves to Sofia for Pool G alongside Iran, USA and Canada.