The South American women’s Olympic qualifier could not have started better for the fans, especially the Colombian ones.
In a thrilling five-setter, decided by the minimum difference in tie break, Team Colombia, led by their star Madelaynne Montaño, defeated Venezuela 3-2 (25-14, 15-25, 21-25, 25-17, 17-15) in over two hours.
Montaño was the top scorer, with 24 points (18 in attack, five aces and one block).
Five squads battle for one spot at Rio Olympics – second and third place will have another chance to qualify in May.
Despite the victory, the Colombians had too many ups and downs, but the inconsistency doesn’t worry opposite Montaño, who turned 33 on Wednesday and considered the win ‘a great gift’.
She is confident Colombia has what it takes to get the berth to finally make a debut at the Olympic Games.
“I am not worried at all. We had some bad moments today, but winning is the most important thing and we got it,” said the hammer, who heard her teammates sing “happy birthday” on the court right after she scored the final point.
“This is the kind of tournament where you grow, your team start at some level and raise it. I have no doubt Colombia will do even better, although we know we will face some very tough opponents.”
Before closing this intense match, Team Colombia almost ruined everything. Having two match points when the score was 14-12 in tie break, they missed a serve and then shanked a pass, putting Venezuela back on the game.
The Colombians also wasted a third opportunity. However, having Montaño on their side, they did not let a fourth chance pass and beat the neighbours. Their opposite ignored the block in her last two attempts.
Understandably upset, Venezuela head coach, Ivan Nieto, keeps the faith.
“This is a very balanced tournament,” he said.
“It is quite probable no one will leave Bariloche undefeated. I think we will see more tight scores like the one we saw today.
When asked what had happened, after Venezuela had convincingly won second and third sets, neutralizing not only Madelaynne Montaño but also wing spikers Amanda Coneo and Paola Ampudia, coach Ivan Nieto showed some disappointment with his squad.
“When you have everything to win, the game is under your control, then you start making unforced errors, giving the opponent a chance to bounce back, you should be very worried,” Nieto stressed.
He gave as an example of Venezuela’s poor performance in fourth set the amount of wrong serves.
“We missed six serves during that set and those were not even forced. How can you win when you allow yourself to do something like that?” questioned the coach.
As expected, Argentina smashed Chile in the second match of the first round in straight sets (25-10, 25-15, 25-14).