The Netherlands keeps Cinderella run alive

The Netherlands women’s volleyball team continues its historic run.

In the Olympics for the first time since 1996, the Dutch women have advanced beyond the quarterfinals round for the first time ever after taking down South Korea in four sets Tuesday (25-19, 25-14, 23-25, 25-20). The Netherlands now has a shot at taking home a medal.

“I am elated after this match, the most important of our careers for coaches and players,” Netherlands coach Giovanni Guidetti said, according to FIVB. “When you win in the quarterfinals at the Olympics, it means that for the next two days, the whole world will have eyes on you battling for the medals.

“You can’t compare that with any other tournament. I want to thank my players and my staff for a wonderful job. Our players now believe they can beat any big team in the world. Today they came back with confidence to win the fourth set after losing the third by close margin. It was a team win, a team effort.”

In the first set Tuesday, the Netherlands jumped out to a 6-3 lead and found even more momentum by winning an early challenge. The Dutch controlled the entire opening set and finished Korea off fittingly with an ace for the 25th point.

In the second set, the Netherlands kept cruising, rolling to an 8-3 lead and never looking back. They finished 14 of 21 on spikes in the set and drained five service aces.

In the third set, Korea battled back as the Dutch women let off the gas a little bit with some sloppy serves and unforced errors.

But it didn’t take long to correct things, getting back to a victory in the fourth set to advance to the semifinals and take on the winner of Brazil and China.

“I think the serves were the keys for us, even though we were a little bit down in the third set,” Netherlands captain Maret Balkestein-Grothues told FIVB. “It was an amazing job as a team. I hope we can continue this way.”

Korean captain Kim Yeon Koung led both teams with 27 points on 25 spikes while Lonneke Sloetjes (23 points, three blocks) and Judith Pietersen (17 points, five aces) paced the Dutch.

Entering the Rio Olympics, Korea was ranked ninth while the Netherlands came in at 11th.

In the preliminary round, the Netherlands ended up 4-1, good for second place with 11 points in Pool B. Korea finished third in Pool A with a 3-2 record and nine points.