‘Beach Red Dragons’ silence Norwegian crowd to call for ‘Golden Match’
2014-2016 CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup - Final
Stavanger, Norway, June 24, 2016. On a rainy Friday afternoon Dries Koekelkoren and Tom van Walle cemented their status as rising power to be reckoned with as they silenced the local crowd in Stavanger by virtue of their 19-21, 21-13, 15-10 victory over Iver Andreas Horrem and Geir Eithun to shape up a ‘Golden Match’ to determine the eventual semi-finalist emerging from the quarter-final tie between Norway and Belgium. Earlier in the afternoon, Norway’s no. 1 team Morten Kvamsdal/Christian Sandlie Sørum had easily claimed their matchup with Bob Douwen and Robin Adriaensen 21-18, 21-14 in 30 minutes. Austria have already secured their spot in the semis of the 2014-2016 CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup Final after sweeping two matches in a row in their quarter-final with Turkey. Austria’s next opponent will be Russia that early in the morning ousted Thursday’s sensation Ukraine by two wins to none as well.
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On Friday afternoon Tom van Walle and Dries Koekelkoren stretched their Stavanger winning streak to three matches in a row. Though they could not capitalise on an early lead they had in the first set of their match with Horrem/Eithun, the Belgians did not tremble and caught a flying start to the second leading the way 7-4 before a series of four straight points – van Walle’s jump serve did most of the ‘damage’ – helped move the charts from 11-10 to 17-11 and pave the way towards a comprehensive 21-13 win.
If van Walle’s serve made the difference in the second set, his block accounted for the same effect in the tie-break that followed where the Belgians scored five consecutive times to claim a 7-2 lead that literally silenced the Norwegian crowd in attendance. Though Horrem and Eithun attempted a comeback, this deficit was a way too much to make up for also for two players as experienced as the two Vikings, with van Walle and Koekelkoren eventually celebrating a well-deserved 15-10 win.
Later in the afternoon, starting at 6pm, van Walle and Koekelkoren will be playing their second ‘Golden Match’ in two days – on Thursday they edged Greece’s Georgios Kotsilianos and Nikos Zoupanis in this ‘extra match’ as well.
Koekelkoren was evidently pleased with the result: “It was not too challenging to play before the Norwegian crowd, actually we did not feel any extra pressure at all, because even though they were cheering their team on, we could feel that they were not against us,” he said. “Tom? Yes, he did a very good job especially at blocking and serving, but that is what he is supposed to do, isn’t it?” he joked.
Koekelkoren and van Walle were passionately supported by a small group of Belgian fans, including apart from friends and relatives of Belgium’s second team, also Dries’ mum and his wife, Fien Callens. The coach of Belgium’s junior and youth women’s national team, is currently pregnant with the couple’s first child. “Of course I am happy that she is here and we were told that she is pregnant only a few days ago. This is a further boost of motivation for me while playing here for a spot in the Olympics,” Koekelkoren said.
The other quarter-final on schedule for Friday afternoon did not produce any ‘Golden Match’ since Austria claimed two straight wins in their matchups with Turkey. Thomas Kunert and Christoph Dressler fought back after losing the opening set of their clash with Turkey’s top team Murat Giginoglu and Volkan Gögtepe to stamp a 22-24, 21-18, 15-12 win in 51 minutes and pave the way for an easy triumph by Alexander Huber/Robin Seidl in their game with Safa Urlu/Hasan Huseyin Mermer which lasted for only 28 minutes (21-12, 21-17). Next up in the semis for Austria will be Russia after this team ousted Ukraine with two consecutive wins earlier on Friday morning.