Spain completes clean sweep to take maximum points from first round
2012 CEV Volleyball European League - Men
Katerini, Greece, May 26, 2012. Even though head coach Fernando Munoz Benitez decided to rest a couple of players, namely captain and setter Guillermo Hernan, as well as Gustavo Delgado, with Iban Perez playing for most of the time, Spain completed the first weekend of action in Pool A of the 2012 CEV Volleyball European League by scoring a third consecutive win, this time edging Israel in straight sets (25-22, 28-26, and 27-25) to take maximum points from this first round.
Spain will be hosting next week in Teruel the second leg and this afternoon in Katerini last year’s silver medalists played quite relaxed, claiming the deciding break in the first set as they moved the score from 8:10 to 16:10. Even though Israel could storm back, it was eventually Spain that got the upper hand (25-22). With Marc Altayo behind the serving line, Spain opened the second set with a massive 6:0 and controlled also a very close final rush (28-26). In set 3 Alexander Shafranovich paced Israel (5:0, 16:11) but Iban Perez took his side by the hand to finish if off in straight sets.
“We played our best against the strongest team of the group and so I am more satisfied today than yesterday and the day before. We played with three young guys, our setter and opposite are only 18 and we need some more luck and experience to finish the sets, something we lacked today” said Israeli head coach Zohar Bar Netzer.
“We tried some other players and even if we started well, we gradually lost our rhythm and hence allowed Israel to get back in the game. The result is anyway good for us and we would like to stretch our positive series to six wins next week in Spain as we play Denmark for the first time, the team that was resting this weekend” stated head coach Fernando Munoz Benitez.
“I would not say that we relaxed, but we played with some reserve players and Israel’s rhythm was really slow, so this made things more difficult for us but in the end we won in straight sets. We thank all the people of Katerini for their support during these three days here” concluded José Miguel Sugranes Martinez.
The home side of Greece rounded out this weekend of action in Katerini with a hard-fought win in five sets (25-23, 21-25, 20-25, 25-21, and 15-10) to delight 900 passionate fans in attendance at “New Indoor Sports Hall” who impressed even the opponents from Slovakia for the great ambiance they created there. Slovakia, whose main stars have decided to take a break from the national team this summer, was additionally sidelined by the absence of three more players, with Stefan Chrtiansky having stayed at the hotel struggling with stomach problems, while Matej Hukel was out for a back injury and Robert Hupka had to leave the court after set 2 because of a calf injury.
Milan Bencz ended as top scorer of the match with 31 points but Greece had more options in attack, standing out by killing 14 blocks. George Petreas impressed with his performance, scoring 18 points, including 4 blocks and 2 aces, taking his side by the hand to clip the tie-break together with teammate Nikolaos Smaragdis.
“I congratulate my players for their great performance and the fans for the atmosphere they contributed tonight here in Katerini. We made fewer mistakes than the Slovaks and we played quite intelligently in some phases of the match” said a delighted head coach Alekos Leonis. “I want to dedicate this win to my family and thank all the people who have come to the sports hall to support us throughout these three days” added Thanos Terzis, who joined the game in the third set.
“We were missing three players and we made a lot of mistakes. However, I am still proud of my players because they fought until the end. Many thanks also to the Greek officials for their hospitality here in Katerini and to the fans” stressed Slovak mentor Stefan Chrtiansky.
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