Guberniya avenges Skra comeback to win first leg of CEV Cup semifinals
2014 CEV Volleyball Cup - Men
Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia, February 26, 2014. Russia’s rookie Guberniya NIZHNIY NOVGOROD added on Wednesday another chapter to their fairy tale in the 2014 CEV Volleyball Cup by claiming the first round of the semifinal with Poland’s heavyweight PGE Skra BELCHATOW. Guberniya edged past after five sets (25-19, 25-21, 22-25, 22-25, and 15-13) and after resisting to a terrific comeback by their decorated opponents. This was the first defeat this year for PGE Skra since the start of their campaign in the CEV Volleyball Cup.
Skra got off to a very good start but after the first technical time-out Guberniya imposed their pace powered by Nikolay Pavlov and Sergey Savin. Mariusz Wlazly – Skra world-class opposite – fought bravely but all alone he could not compensate for the many mistakes made by his team-mates. Serbian-born Milos Nikic spiked hard to seal the final 25-19 for the home heroes of Guberniya.
The hosts set the pace of the game also in the second set before a couple of blocks on Pavlov restored the balance. The Bulgarian-born head coach of Guberniya, Plamen Konstantinov, decided to use his back-lines and that was a good move for NIZHNIY NOVGOROD broke away in the score. Guberniya played strong in attack and blocking as well, making it difficult for Nicolas Uriarte and the other players of Skra to find a way through the Russian wall. The last two points of the set were claimed by Guberniya via a triple block to stop Stéphane Antiga and on an error by Mariusz Wlazly.
Though Guberniya was comfortably leading 2:0, the game was still far from being over. Skra stormed out to a terrific 7:1 lead in the third set on great serving by Wlazly but Guberniya fought their way back on a collective effort by Mikko Esko, Pavlov and others (12 all). At this stage of the game Andrzej Wrona suffered a foot injury and was forced to leave the court. Even though they had to cope with that blow, the players of Skra did not leave any chance to the hosts. The remainder of the third set as well as the fourth followed the same plot. Wlazly continued to serve strong and this way propelled the double 22-25 that called for the tie-break.
The fifth set turned into a thriller where both teams had to show strong nerves to cruise to victory. The players and the head coach of Skra had showed many times since the start of the game their dissatisfaction with the decisions taken by the referees; after trailing 5:8, Skra fought back, leveled the score but after that the Russian guys were more aggressive, accurate and effective in their overall performance. A spike by Alexey Kuleshov sealed the final 15-13 for the home side with Guberniya thereby taking a small edge before the return game coming up on Sunday in Poland.
“We made a very good effort and won two sets” said Skra mentor Miguel Angel Falasca who did not look too upset after the game. “This means we can win at home with any score and qualify for the final. I mean, only if we win 3:2 we will get to play a golden set. Our opponents have a great team and played very good in the first and second sets. This way they could take the lead but it does not mean that we played badly.”
Guberniya mentor Plamen Konstantinov acknowledged that this victory was only a first step on the way to the final: “To make it there you have to win two matches. Tonight we had a very tough game with a strong opponent. Even though we were leading 2:0 they managed to come back and the fate of the game was determined at the tie-break. Both teams have very experienced players and I do not see anyone having a clear advantage at this stage of the competition.”
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