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03/05/2017 15:30
Selver TALLINN retain Estonian national league title
News from the National Federations

Tallinn, Estonia, May 3, 2017. At the end of a truly dramatic final series of the Estonian men’s national league, Selver TALLINN eventually retained the title after edging Bigbank TARTU by four wins to two.

The series started with a thriller. In the first match, Bigbank TARTU sprinted to a 2-0 lead and had two match balls in the fourth set but they could not capitalise on these opportunities. It was the opposite hitter of Selver, Lincoln Williams, who changed the course of the game with two successful spikes to give the home team a 28-26 victory and extend the match to a fifth, all-deciding set. The Australian continued playing in the same way, netting five more points, including the last one, and after rallying to a 15-10 win, Selver TALLINN claimed the lead in the championship series.

After that, the finals moved to Tartu for the next two games. In both matches, Bigbank TARTU had their chances but recurrent problems towards the end of each set and Selver TALLINN’s overall superiority in block-defence resulted in 3-1 victories for the titleholders.

Therefore, it was all set for Selver to end the series in four games and in front of their home crowd. However, Selver TALLINN were not able to perform at the same level they had showed in the first three games and Bigbank TARTU grabbed a relatively easy 3-0 victory.

Another thriller followed. The first set of the fifth match belonged to Selver TALLINN (25-23). In the second one, the score was 17-17 when Bigbank TARTU’s head coach Oliver Lüütsepp switched his setters and sent Ronald Järv to serve. From there, the home side scored twelve points in a row. Apart from delivering a superb performance from the serving line, Järv showed a great cooperation with the team’s middle blockers who shone until the end of the game. Despite not capitalising on the match ball they had in the fourth set, Bigbank TARTU claimed an early lead in the fifth one and closed in to two wins to three in the championship series.

Selver TALLINN quickly spurted to a four-point lead in the first set of the sixth match but Bigbank TARTU levelled the game and had two set balls. However, that only meant that it was again time for Williams to shine. The score at that stage was 22-24. At first, he offered a powerful spike and after that, he scored with an ace – and the first set eventually ended 27-25 to Selver TALLINN. After suffering a heavy loss in a lopsided second set (25-15), Bigbank TARTU won the third one 25-20 but the fourth belonged to Selver TALLINN – and a 25-20 win secured the national league title for the team from Estonia’s capital city.

“Compared to the previous two matches, we were significantly more aggressive. We managed to push the opponent further from the net with our serve and therefore we had it easier to set up our defence,” said Selver TALLINN outside hitter Karli Allik. “It was a season with a lot of very painful losses. Therefore, to take the Estonian national league title gives us the opportunity to finish it on a high note,” he added.

As they made their debut in the CEV Volleyball Champions League earlier this season, Selver TALLINN lost at the Golden Set after having previously played two five set thrillers against Crvena Zvezda BEOGRAD of Serbia. Next to this, Selver lost in the final of the national cup as well as in the semis of the Credit24 Champions League to PÄRNU VC, both times at the tiebreak.

Bigbank TARTU were unstoppable in the regular season but could not win any titles this season. “If we compare this season with the previous one, the progress is significant but our goals were bigger. We came to win titles,” said middle blocker Meelis Kivisild. Libero Rait Rikberg added that in the Estonian Championship finals the decisive moment might have been the first game. “We had two match balls and one of them from perfect reception and we could not capitalise on this opportunity. Despite everything, it is clear that this kind of tough loss had its effects and we saw them also in the second and third match of the championship series,” Rikberg said.

The bronze medal series between PÄRNU VC and RAKVERE VC lasted four games and resulted in three wins to one for PÄRNU VC, who made amends for their dramatic loss in the Credit24 Champions League final where they dissipated a 2-0 lead before RAKVERE VC won their first ever Baltic League title. Having won the Estonian national cup in December, PÄRNU VC finished the season with a full set of medals.

In women’s competitions, it was the season of KOHILA VC/E-Service and TARTU University/Eeden. KOHILA won both the national league and national cup and on top of it, they claimed a silver medal from the Baltic League. TARTU achieved a historic feat in the Baltic league where they won their first ever medal by finishing third. Additionally, after 18 years of absence, they reached the final series of the Estonian national league as well.  

Estonian Volleyball fans can start looking forward to the start of the national team season, with Estonia’s men and women having already started their preparation for the 2018 FIVB World Championship qualifiers coming up later this month.

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