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11/10/2015 19:42
Red Dragons edge Slovenia to secure second place in Pool C, Poland rout Belarus to move on straight to EuroVolley quarterfinals
2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men

Varna, Bulgaria, October 11, 2015. The Red Dragons of Belgium opened the programme of the last 2015 men’s EuroVolley competition day at the Palace of Culture and Sports in Varna with a 3:1 victory over Slovenia (27-25, 14-25, 27-25, 28-26) to secure they will finish second in Pool C. The actions in Varna came to a close later on Sunday afternoon when reigning world champions Poland downed Belarus in three sets (25-13, 25-19, 25-17) to claim their third straight win in the competition and further cement their first place in the group, moving on straight to the quarterfinals and bypassing the playoff round coming up on Tuesday at Arena Armeec in Sofia. 

Belgium vs. Slovenia 3:1 (27-25, 14-25, 27-25, 28-26)

The first set of the match up starring Slovenia and Belgium was a close and interesting race. Both teams looked extremely determined to go for their second victory in the competition as this would have secured them second place in the final standing of the pool. Belgium and Slovenia traded points up to 20 all before the Red Dragons broke away capitalising on their good serving. Simon Van de Voorde contributed three set points for Belgium with a service ace (24:21) but Slovenia – back in action after their extremely solid performance in the match with world champions Poland – was not yet ready to surrender. They tried to come back and put some real pressure on Belgium’s receivers before making a couple of fatal mistakes which sealed the final 27-25 set win for the Red Dragons.

The second set was a completely different story as Slovenia imposed their rule from start to end. They claimed an early lead, once more using their skills at serving, combined with a few huge blocks and some powerful attacks. Mitja Gasparini and Klemen Cebulj scored point after point and turned into a real nightmare for Belgium’s receivers. Slovenia wrapped up the second set without any problems with a landslide 25-14 win.

The third stanza, on the other hand, was played point to point. Slovenia claimed a very narrow lead at the second technical time-out (16:15) and after that edged ahead by two points at 21:19. However, the Red Dragons showed all of their character and determination, Bram Van den Dries stamped a service ace and a powerful spike by their team captain Sam Deroo eventually closed the set at 27-25.

Deroo set the tone for the start of the fourth set while standing behind the service line and after the Slovenian players struggled a couple of times already to cope with his serve, he stamped an ace for the provisional 3:0 lead in favour of Belgium. However, Slovenia regrouped and fought their way back into the game. Deroo was Belgium’s main weapon and scored time and again, with the Red Dragons securing a 16:14 lead at the second technical time-out. After the break, Slovenia performed really well and turned the tide, stamping a mighty block for the 19:18 in their favour. After the score was levelled at 20 all, Slovenia claimed two set points at 24:22 but missed out on these chances to stretch the match to a tie-break, Belgium stormed back and ultimately finished the set and the match at 28-26. 

Belgium’s middle blocker Pieter Coolman said: “We knew going into this match that it was going to be difficult. The chances were 50:50 and the key to the victory was in the small details. I think that for us as a team it was a really important to win this match and to beat a strong opponent like Slovenia. It’s good for our morale. It was difficult but we managed to win and I’m really happy with this. In the next round maybe our opponent will be Germany. We have played against them in the preparation for this European Championship. We know them very well. They also have a Belgian coach. This match will be difficult but nothing is impossible. We have showed that in the past. We can win against big teams and if our next opponent will be Germany we will try to beat them like we did today with Slovenia.”

Belgium’s mentor Dominique Baeyens said: “Of course I’m happy. In the first game here against Poland we did quite some positive things even though we lost in three sets. After that we had to win the second game against Belarus. We did it. But with all my respect, Belarus was not a top team. So we knew we had to make another step forward and to beat some strong opponent like Slovenia. We did it and I’m really happy with that. Especially for the team. Now we are really ready for the playoffs. And now it doesn’t matter who our next opponent will be – Germany or the Czech Republic. I don’t care. My team is ready! It’s a nice conclusion for the first round of this championship.”

Alen Pajenk, Slovenian player: “I think that today Belgium played very good Volleyball. They made very good decisions at the end of each set and this way they beat us. And we were not in the game as we should have. As you know yesterday we had a really tough and long game against Poland. Maybe the time to rest and recover was not enough. In the next round it will be even tougher but we need to play better and better towards the end of the sets, where the final decision about whether you succeed or not is taken.”

Slovenia’s mentor Andrea Giani said: “We lost three sets by two points, only with two balls. The difference was in the confidence of the teams. My guys played well against a good team like Belgium. We always had the chance to win in our hands and this happened in the first, third and fourth sets. We had our chances but we missed them. The reason is not in the system – this is the quality of the players. It’s impossible to learn this in practice, because the practice is different from the game. But basically we played well in these three matches here in Varna against Belarus, Belgium and Poland and we always showed a good performance. Now we need to try to improve for the next round and have to show more self-confidence in the key moments.”

Belarus vs. Poland 0:3 (13-25, 19-25, 17-25)

Everything went just easy for Poland in their third and final match in Pool C. The reigning world champions controlled the game from start to end and with their third straight win and another three points they further cemented their leadership in the group. Actually they had a relatively slow start but halfway through the opening set they changed gear and they easily brought proceedings to an end at 25-13.

Belarus stepped up their efforts in the second set but as soon as they got closer in the score, Poland responded by showing the class and attributes of a world champion (25-19). The third set went pretty much the same way with Poland leading the way by 16:14 at the second technical time-out. The Belarusian players showed a lot of determination and their desire to win, fighting through to the end for every single ball. However, Poland’s service was just too much to stand and the world champions eventually brought the match to an end in three consecutive sets.

Stéphane Antiga, coach of Poland, commented: “I’m very satisfied with our performance in this group. The matches against Belgium and Slovenia were not easy ones but we managed to win. I’m very satisfied especially with the way my players react when we have some difficulties. This is a very positive thing. All the guys who played here in Varna did their job really well. I know that they are ready for the next matches. Now we have enough time to adjust to the big arena in Sofia and to scout our next opponent for the quarterfinals.”

Poland’s middle blocker Martin Mozdzonek said: “We are satisfied with the results we achieved in the pool phase. Maybe we are not so satisfied with the way we performed in the second match against Slovenia yesterday, especially in the second and third sets. Now we are thinking only about our quarter final. The real games start in Sofia. So we are pretty excited to go there.”

Viachaslau Charapovich, player of Belarus, said: “In some moments of the match we played good but the task ahead is to extend these moments and try to do more and more. Sometimes we did not play that bad but against such a classy opponent it’s not enough. We need to play well for the whole game. I think that in the future we need to improve all the elements of our game. We need to train well, to work hard and I hope that in two years, at the next edition of the European Championship, we will perform better than we did here in Varna.”

For more information on the 2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men visit or click here. In social media, please use the competition’s official hashtag #EuroVolleyM.

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