GB men advance to second round of European Champs for post-Olympic legacy
2013 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men
Crawley, England, May 19, 2012. Great Britain beat Albania in straight sets (25-17, 25-17, and 25-22) to qualify for the second round of the 2013 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Men after edging that side also last week in the away leg. This coming September the guys mentored by Harry Brokking will join a second round qualifier including the national teams of Belarus, Portugal and Turkey.
There was an electric atmosphere in the crowd as the two teams and officials walked onto court. Kieran O’Malley of GB took the first serve but Albania’s Blerim Pepaj won the first rally with a well-placed hit. Great Britain quickly equalized. The score was very close with Great Britain just piping Albania to 8 points at the first technical time-out. Neither team lead by more than two points until Great Britain’s Dami Bakare tipped the ball to increase their lead to 14:11. Albania continued their resistance, including some powerful hitting by Blerim Pepaj but finally Dami Bakare won the set point for Great Britain (25-17) with one of his characteristic dominant hits.
In the second set Albania again scored the opening point and continued their victory to a 3:0 lead, assisted by a skilful tip by Hendi Kono. A powerful hit by Dami Bakare scored Great Britain’s first point of the set. The score was very close until Andrew Pink gave Great Britain a 13:12 lead. Great Britain’s winning streak continued until 16:12 when Albania’s Entigleno Nazifi gained a point with a well placed hit. Yassir Sliti then made a number of powerful hits to contribute to Great Britain’s resurgence and the home side won the set 25-17 when Albania hit the ball out.
Great Britain won the opening point in the third set and quickly took the score to 4:1. Albania fought back and managed to close the lead to 6:5. Andrew Pink skillfully hit to the line to help Great Britain bring their lead to 9:6. Albania also demonstrated some strong hitting skills, most notably one from Blerim Pepaj which went out from Great Britain’s block and closed their lead to 13:11. Strong play from Albania’s Hendi Kono weakened Great Britain’s lead to 13:12, and then continued good form from Albania resulted in a draw of 13:13. A block from Blerim Memia then gave Albania the lead. Great Britain quickly equalized with a hit by Andrew Pink and a powerful jump serve by Matt Howe took them back into the lead. Albania continued to fight back and drew again at 19:19. A number of powerful hits from Yassir Sliti allowed Great Britain to get back into the lead and ultimately win the set 25-22 and hence the match.
Great Britain’s coach Harry Brokking was pleased with the result. His aim for the match was “to win 3-0 and do better in each set than in Albania”. The team’s focus will now be on the London 2012 Olympic Games: “I want to show not only Great Britain but the world that we have a very good team and win two matches to get into the quarter finals”.
Great Britain’s captain Ben Pipes highlighted how the victory is “a legacy stand for us” because since the second round of 2013 CEV Volleyball European Championship is in September “it gives GB players a future together after the Games”. For the Great Britain men, playing in their first Olympics in their home country will be “the stuff of dreams”. He also acknowledged the support of the home crowd saying “there is real appreciation from us to them”.
Albania’s captain Elton Tukseferi felt that the standard of Volleyball demonstrated by Great Britain “has gone up in the games, the height of the players, the velocity, the strength, the team are training well”. The Albanian coach Ylli Tomorri wanted to thank the BVF for their hospitality and hopes that “the collaboration between the two countries develops”.
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