Unbeatable Belgians prolong winning streak to six matches
2013 CEV Volleyball European League - Men
Slagelse, Denmark, June 22, 2013. On Saturday Belgium completed the second round of play in prelim Pool A of the 2013 CEV Volleyball European League – Men by scoring a sixth consecutive victory to keep an immaculate record in the group. This time Belgium edged the two-time winners of the European League, Slovakia, 3:1 (18-21, 22-20, 21-17, and 21-17) to prolong their winning streak. In the other match of the day the hosts of Denmark claimed their second victory in the competition by beating Austria once more as they had done last week in Vienna, this time with the score of 3:1 (21-15, 14-21, 21-15, and 21-17). After two rounds are completed, Belgium tops the charts of the Pool with 16 points, followed by Austria with 8, while Slovakia and Denmark have six.
After losing last week in straight sets to the Belgians, this time Slovakia could deliver a much better performance but nevertheless the guys mentored by Dominique Baeyens could go for their sixth consecutive win. Slovakia caught a good start in the first set going up 5:2 and forcing Baeyens into an early time-out. Still Slovakia did set the pace all the way through leading 12:9 at the technical time-out before widening the gap at 15:10; Belgium fired back with Bram Van den Dries and Kevin Klinkenberg reducing the Slovak lead to three points (17:14) and even leveling the score at 18. However, Slovakia showed their best play for the final rush and could pocket the provisional 1:0 (21-18).
Belgium trailed 4:7 in the second set after a block killed by Emanuel Kohut and Slovakia was once more the side that dictated the tempo of the game at the technical time-out (12:10). Slovakia did even go up by four points before Belgium’s opposite Hendrik Tuerlinckx suffered an ankle injury as Slovakia moved up 17:13. At the same time Pieter Coolman split his eyebrow and started bleeding so that the game was stopped for a short while and as the operations resumed, Belgium got back on track leveling the score at 19 and then cashing their second set ball at 22-20.
After a very close start, Belgium finally claimed a narrow margin in the third set (9:7) and Van den Dries helped widen the lead (12:9). With Gert Van Walle on fire (best scorer in the end with 14 points), Belgium got control of the game (17:13) before Van den Dries killed his fourth spike of the set to make it 21-17 and 2:1 for the Pool leaders. After the score remained close in the early phases of the fourth set (6:6), Simon Van de Voorde showed great blocks for Belgium but Milan Bencz responded well for Slovakia making it 11 all. As his guys were trailing 11:14, Slovakia’s head coach Stefan Chrtiansky stopped the game but his side could never compensate for that gap and Belgium cruised to another 21-17 and a well-deserved 3:1 victory.
“Slovakia started very good but my team showed an incredible motivation to win” Belgium’s mentor Dominique Baeyens says. “The stamina and mental strength of these players are fantastic and it is really something we can build on. This is very remarkable especially after the tough match we had yesterday with Austria. Though we changed three players from last week we keep on winning and this is a very positive result”.
“We started very bad and were sidelined by injuries” opposite Bram Van den Dries says. “However, we decided to fight for the team and we are very pleased with our team effort. It could have gone differently today but we kept on fighting which is just fantastic. It is too early to think about the final four in Turkey. If we continue to win, we can start thinking about it after the next round but the final four remains our primary goal, that’s clear”.
In the other match of the day Denmark edged – for the second time in one week – Austria, this time with the score of 3:1 (21-15, 14-21, 21-15, and 21-17). After a close start (4:4), Denmark did move to the front (7:5, 9:6) before an ace by Maximilian Thaller made it 9 all for Austria. Denmark still got up by two points at the technical time-out before team captain Kristian Knudsen widened the gap (15:12) thereby setting the tone for a terrific final rush by the hosts (21-15). Austria got off to a flying start in the second set (4:1, 8:3) and though the hosts fought bravely, the guys mentored by Michael Warm were still up by five points at the technical time-out. As Denmark fought their way back to -2, Warm asked for a time-out and that helped Austria get back on track and rapidly cruise to the final 21-14 and 1:1 in sets.
A red card to Axel Jacobsen helped Austria make it 5 all in the third set but Jacobsen – who did not look too impressed by that punishment – helped the home side open the gap with his float serves (10:7). Two blocks made it 12:10 for Denmark at the technical time-out and the hosts did impose their pace throughout the remainder of the set (18:12) to pocket the provisional 2:1 (21-15). As his side was trailing 2:5 in the fourth set, Danish mentor Fred Sturm asked for a time-out and this did help as Denmark quickly made it to 5:6. Mads Ditlevsen eventually leveled the score at 9 and as Aleksandar Blagojevic – who yesterday had scored 26 points against Belgium – could not find a way through the Danish block, the home heroes moved to the front at 12:9. Peter Trolle did a good job from the serving area (16:12) and even though Austria made it to -1 (17:16), still the Danes did keep cool and finished the match at 21-17 for their sole home victory of the weekend.
“The spectators helped us a lot today. They were absolutely fantastic these three days and they made it clear that none should underestimate the impact of a great home audience” says Denmark head coach Fred Sturm. “This is exactly what we needed. The team fought bravely and kept cool. We have been getting better and better these days and today we played our best. I hope we can start the next round in Belgium at that same level and we can build on this good performance”.
Denmark’s opposite and top scorer (24 points) Mads Ditlevsen: “We were ready right from the start today similarly to what we did last week in Vienna. We did a lot of good things but also many were wrong. However, we did not lose our focus on the game and it is fantastic to play before such an audience. These guys were noisy and it felt like we had thousands in attendance. I will invite them to cheer on us also at the European Championship in September”.
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