Serbia and the Netherlands through to Playoffs
2013 CEV VELUX Volleyball European Championship - Men
Herning, Denmark, September 22, 2013. It was practically all or nothing for Slovenia and the Netherlands. Three points would send Slovenia directly to the quarterfinals while three Dutch points would make sure the Oranjes qualify for the Playoffs without having to wait for the result of the clash starring Serbia and Finland. And in the end it was the Netherlands that came out winners 3-1 (19-25, 25-19, 25-22, and 25-23) to play Italy in the next round. Later in the evening Serbia cruised past Finland in straight sets (25-20, 25-23, and 25-15) to claim second place in the group and get the right to play Denmark on Tuesday in the Playoffs. Though they lost that game in straight sets, the Finns still finished on top of the charts to enjoy an extra day of rest before re-starting their European campaign on Wednesday in the 1/4 finals.
Slovenia had edged Serbia in their first game and playing well in Herning. Against the Netherlands they won the first point of the first set and after 2-2 they went on to lead for the rest of the set, taking a commanding 8-3 at the first technical time-out. Slovenia in charge found holes in the Dutch defence and the Dutch blockers couldn’t hold off the effective Slovenian spikes. Slovenian captain, wing-spiker Tine Urnaut scored several sneaky points by tipping the ball over the Dutch defence. A serving error by the Dutch ended up giving Slovenia the first set 25-19.
Slovenia started the second set determined and fought for every ball but the Netherlands came back for a two point lead at the first technical time-out. Urnaut still played clever at the net and kept Slovenia in the set, but the tall Dutch started to get their spikes in order and sent one missile after the other Slovenia’s way to level the match at 25-19 with a superior kill block by middle-blocker Wytze Kooistra who stands 209 cm tall.
Third set: after a messy start with errors from both sides the Netherlands started to pull ahead and after the second technical time-out, they took five straight points with a kill block and a 21-16 lead. The Netherlands would go on to lead 2-1 after the Slovenians almost came back, as the Oranjes seized the third set 25-22.
Again the Slovenians had a good start to a set and were ahead 8-5 after some solid spiking. A couple of technical errors got Netherlands into this set again and head coach Luka Slabe called for a Slovenian time-out. The Netherlands got back into the game with consistent offensive work and a great spike finished it off for the Oranjes who eventually got the three points they wanted from this game.
Tine Urnaut, Slovenian captain, scored 11 points: “We started good and played good the first set but after that we didn’t maintain the serve pressure on the Netherlands and they made points from every side. We had problems making side-out and receiving and setting was not going well as in the first match so this was the main problem. Until now everything was in our hands but we didn’t make it now it depends on others and we will see what happens”.
Dutch Middle-blocker Wytze Kooistra said: “Our performance today was on the limit. We weren’t playing the best of Volleyball but we kept on fighting and during the game we improved. We made some good substitutions giving good energy to the team. We are happy that we are through to the next round even though it has been a slow start to the Championship so I hope we can build up from here. We played against Finland in the World League and they killed us in the last match so they don’t give away presents and I hope this for the Slovenian team. If Serbia plays like in the last three sets against us I think they can beat Finland but let’s see how motivated Finland are for this game. We need to keep focus and we can improve our game but now it is more a mental aspect”.
Serbia needed 3 points to go through to the Playoffs and Finland had already won the group and a place in the quarterfinals. It was therefore not a big surprise that Serbia won 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, and 25-15) but the 2011 European champions did play a great game and will now meet hosts Denmark in the Playoffs in Aarhus, Denmark on Tuesday night. This means the Netherlands takes third place in the group and Slovenia is out of the competition.
It was a tight match at the beginning of the first set as both teams wanted to play ball. Finnish captain Antti Siltala again showed the way for his team with a massive spike through six Serbian arms and a 14-13 lead. Serbia would quickly respond though and started playing with more confidence and more pressure on the balls. Serbia put in the effort of a winner and moved away from Finland - also getting a hold of Siltala. Serbia rounded off the first set with a comprehensive 25-20 win.
Set 2 and Serbia was again in the lead. Quicker and more aggressive than Finland that could manage a defeat. Serbia fought for every ball and was up 6-3, 7-6 and 10-8. The second set turned into a power struggle. Which proved strongest: the insisting spiking from Serbia with Aleksandar Atanasijevic in the lead or Finland’s smooth blocking game with Siltala and Konstantin Shumov showing the necessary muscles? It would stay close in this second set, but it was obvious that Serbia needed this more and thus wanted it more. Middle-blocker Srecko Lisinac at 205 cm flew high and dominated the net and threw down some good spikes, hammering down two quick nails in the Finnish floor. The score said 22-22 before Serbia finally slipped away and got the 2-0 lead with a 25-23 set win.
Finland had nothing to play for and their blocking was not so strong anymore, which cost lots of points on their blocks going out of bounds. Serbia went for 7-8 to 11-8 and to a 17-10 lead. They closed down the match 25-15 and 3-0 in sets securing second place in the group to meet with Denmark in Tuesday's playoff match in Aarhus.
Aleksandar Atanasijevic, Serbian opposite, said: “As I said yesterday, the last three sets was the key to how we should play till the end of the tournament. Today we played a good match, but there is still a lot to improve and I think we can play much better in the next round. We started off bad but got better and today we showed that we can go to the end. We just continued from yesterday. We can all improve our own game and then we will do better”. “It is a big honor to play against Denmark and I hope the arena will be full. For sure it will a really interesting match, Denmark played really good in their group and they are maybe the biggest surprise in this European Championship because they have not played at the highest level for the last three years. I won’t be an easy match and they will come full of emotions and powers and we must play 100 % if we want to win against a team like Denmark”.
Tuomas Sammelvuo, head coach of Finland: “We knew before the game that we would be first in the group, and it’s not that we played with a bad attitude, never, but when you give 95 % instead of 100 % it’s different. Serbia needed to win today and played a great game in every detail. They were really strong and there is nothing to say about their performance today, they were stronger. Now we need to get all the energy and powers into the quarter final because we really want to win that game. We will prepare the smallest details of the game and we will for sure see Finland in its best form in the quarterfinals”.
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