Trio of experienced star players to highlight European Games men’s semi-finals
2015 European Games
Baku, Azerbaijan, June 20, 2015. Three of the most experienced players participating in the men’s Beach Volleyball competition of the Baku 2015 European Games, 2007 world silver medallist Dmitry Barsouk of Russia (35), 2012 Olympic bronze medal winner Martins Plavins of Latvia (30) and 41-year old Premysl Kubala of the Czech Republic qualified on Saturday for the semis and are therefore in contention for another honour to be added to their already impressive resume. It was a day of mixed fortunes for Switzerland as Gabriel Kissling/Alexei Strasser made the semis to play Barsouk/Koshkarev whilst Sebastien Chevallier and Marco Krattiger lost to the evergreen Kubala and his partner Jan Hadrava.
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Russian and Swiss tandems shape up ‘experience vs youth’ semi-final clash
Russia’s Dmitry Barsouk and Yaroslav Koshkarev had upset the Azerbaijani crowd on Friday night by edging home heroes Bernardo Wermelinger Romano and Leonid Gritsai. The experienced Russian duo continued their march on Saturday and claimed a spot in the semis after a tough match with their Belarusian neighbours Aliaksandr Kavalenka and Aliaksandr Dziadkou. It was a close game from start to end and in the second set Barsouk/Koshkarev needed as many as eight match balls before pocketing their pass to the semis (21-19, 28-26) to play Gabriel Kissling and Alexei Strasser for a spot in the ‘grand finale’ of the tournament.
Kavalenka and Dziadkou were still pretty happy with their participation in the European Games: “We were absolutely pleased to represent the Republic of Belarus at these games and our result is good [they end the competition in fifth place]. Beach Volleyball is drawing more and more attention in our country and so with further investments we are confident that the Belarusian teams will become more and more competitive on the international stage. We are travelling back home tomorrow and after that we will continue the season which is only in its early stages by competing at an EEVZA zonal event in Lithuania and then at the SWATCH Major Series in Gstaad, Switzerland.”
Dmitry Barsouk was pleased with his and partner Koshkarev’s performance: “Today we did not make that many mistakes and we played a good match. Tomorrow we are going to play a young Swiss team, they have a very good blocker who is extremely good at jumping but the other player is not as good at the net. We will analyse their performance and prepare for the semi-final accordingly.”
Barsouk and Koshkarev’s opponents in the semi-final will be Switzerland’s Gabriel Kissling and Alexei Strasser who needed more than one hour to stamp their come-from-behind win over Tobias Winter and Lorenz Petutschnig of Austria (18-21, 23-21, 15-12).
The Austrian team started with a lot of power in the first set and their solid performance was further cemented by Petutschnig’s contribution at blocking. The second set was a totally different story as Kissling and Strasser slowly but surely found their way back into the game with the 202 cm tall Strasser putting some extra pressure on the Austrian rivals with a serve registering a speed of 91 km/h. As the score stood at 21 all in the second set and the match had reached its climax, Petutschnig asked for a medical time-out as he seemed to suffer of arrhythmia due to the heat. Once the actions resumed, Strasser and Kissling exploited their chance to the full and closed the set at 23-21. The Austrians seemed to have run out of fuel in the third set and even though they could keep the score tight up to 12 all, they eventually could not stand the pace of the highly energetic Swiss tandem.
“We were really determined and motivated today. This was more like a war game than a Beach Volleyball match. We got the feeling we could exploit their tiredness and so after the medical time-out we started serving on Petutschnig,” Kissling recounts. “We just wanted to finish the game as quickly as possible but they put on a lot of resistance through to the end. We knew that all the teams that had made the quarter-finals would stand a chance to get gold and we expected a tough match and so it was, but we fought for every ball and in the end we won.”
Plavins does not want to make any predictions about next rounds
Martins Plavins and his young partner Haralds Regza stopped the winning streak of Israel’s Sean Faiga and Ariel Hilman who had turned into one of the major sensation of the Games cruising to a speedy 21-13, 21-15 win to also book a spot in the semis.
“This was by far the best game we had in the tournament so far,” Martins Plavins said. “We were happy to play this late because the weather conditions are severe here. After two defence actions you feel dead but now we could focus on playing our own game.”
“One of the reasons that we won was that we followed the tactics that we had agreed upon. And we also had a good block tonight,” added partner Haralds Regza.
About the next game: “I’m superstitious. I don’t like to talk about medals or results. Every player who has been featured on a news article so far is out and therefore I do not wish to make any comments or predictions,” Plavins joked. “As for our preparations towards the semis, we will just sleep, eat and try to regenerate. We need a lot of rest here because of the heat. That’s about all we need. And of course we will be working on some good tactics for our next opponent.”
Premysl Kubala and Jan Hadrava stormed back in an opening set of their semi-final with Marco Krattiger and Sebastien Chevallier that seemed to have already gone the Swiss players’ way. Still the Czechs fought back and after seizing the opening set 25-23 in a dramatic fashion they controlled the second from start to end (21-17) to book a spot in the semis of the first ever European Games.
“We are very happy with winning this game,” Kubala said. “We knew that we could beat this team if we were consistent in our performance. Our side out was good and we wanted to serve on Krattiger, and so we did. We had studied the team very well before so we knew how they played. For the second set we changed tactics a bit and started to set high balls so that we could spike deeper in the court and that was a very wise decision that eventually paid off.”
On the semi-final with Plavins and Regza, Hadrava said: “The Latvians are a very good team so we have to be well prepared for the game. We will eat, rest and try to recover as much as we can. And we also think that we deserve one beer now!” he joked.