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30/08/2017 22:30
Poland crash out of EuroVolley as Slovenia sweep hosts to set up quarter-final with Russia
2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men

Kraków, Poland, August 30, 2017. LOTTO EUROVOLLEY POLAND 2017 hosts Poland crashed out at the play-off stage after being beaten in straight sets by Slovenia (25-21, 25-21, 25-19). The result means that Slobodan Kovač’s side will face Russia in their quarter-final at 17:30 on Thursday evening.

Two years ago Slovenia beat Poland in the EuroVolley quarter-finals and here in Krakow it was once again they who ended the Polish dreams of a medal, to the huge disappointment of a massive crowd inside TAURON Arena.

The start of the match was very tight but Bartosz Kurek’s serves helped Poland secure a 9-6 lead. Polish captain Michał Kubiak scored a couple of points to make it 11-8. Mitja Gasparini tied it up at 13-all and after getting their block in the right place, Slovenia led 15-14. They held on to the slight margin until Łukasz Kaczmarek scored to make it 21-20 in Poland’s favour. It was all the Poles could do in the period and after losing five consecutive points, Gasparini ended it at 25-21.

Slovenia were clearly satisfied after winning their first close set in three matches and kept it going in the second, working well with their block and staying ahead by two points. They even managed to increase the lead to 12-9 with a triple block on Kubiak. There came a moment when the Polish block (mostly Bartłomiej Lemański and Kurek) pushed hard so the Poles got back to 15-15. Then the Slovenian captain Tine Urnaut showed some skills and his team bounced back to lead 20-16. It was simply too much of a deficit to overcome for Poland, who lost 25-21 after another Urnaut spike.

In the final set the Slovenians started with more concentration, but they trailed 7-5 following a brilliant ace from Łukasz Kaczmarek. Mateusz Bieniek’s outlet Slovenia tie the score up at 8-all and from then onwards they stayed in touch with Poland, preventing them from building up a significant lead. Slovenia got themselves ahead at 13-11 after Jan Kozamernik’s spike and Alen Pajenk’s ace. The point series lasted even longer and during the second technical time-out the scoreboard showed a 16-11 lead in Slovenia’s favour. The end loomed for Poland and a duo of Slovenian aces made it 21-14. The dream quickly became a reality after Pajenk finished the set at 25-19.

Alen Šket, Slovenia: “Poland are the world champions and the host team, so they played with big pressure. It was a straight-sets victory, but it’s just a result on paper. We had to fight very hard for every point. We could enjoy our game and have more fun on court showing how we can play.” 

Mitja Gasparini, Slovenia: “I think that we played very well and we pushed them really hard. They were fighting back really good and they were also pushing, but we broke them back. They didn’t have any more solutions, and the third set showed it perfectly. It doesn’t matter that it was 3-0, because it was not so easy to win, it was obviously a tough game and we are really tired now, feeling like you would have played a tie-break. We put everything into this game, because it’s an elimination match and you have to put everything in at this level. If you don’t do it, you won’t win.”

Tine Urnaut, Slovenia captain: “We were more focussed than in previous games and it was most important. We started to play well and when we had our chances we used them in the first set and also in the second. We knew that if we use at least a half of chances which we have, it will be possible to win this match and this is how it was. The quarter-final against Russia will be a totally different match than the one in the in group phase, because the pressure was different, now it decides if you are out or in. We know that we can play well, we have to rest as much as we can and be totally focussed.”

Slobodan Kovac, Slovenia coach: “For the first time during this tournament we showed our character. With Russia and Bulgaria in hot moments we didn’t play well, because in my opinion we were afraid of something. Afraid of some mistakes and today we finally everyone played showing character. We didn’t give Poland a chance to win. It’s extremely hard to defeat Poland on home soil, but we did it and I think that this is our great success. We were better in every element. In block, percentage of spike and even six aces. Poland have amazing fans who support them in every situation. We played fantasticly and achieved a great result. From one side I feel sorry for Poland, because it’s a pity for sport, because volleyball is a huge sport in Poland and everyone can see it. But from other side I am even more proud of my team. Tomorrow’s match it’s another game, for me it’s important to repeat a way they entered a court today, with this confidence and character, when this will happen also the result will come. No matter if you are doing something good or bad you have to do it with character. You have to try in every situation, I used to say if you don’t try, the result won’t come. Now we have positive energy, but we must immediately forget about tonight’s result to be ready to enter a court and fight tomorrow.”

Mateusz Bieniek, Poland: “Each one of us could give something more to the team. Slovenia played a good game today – they showed their best side. I am very sad and I have no idea what caused this defeat, since the atmosphere among us has been great. It is hard to say anything positive at this stage.” 

Michał Kubiak, Poland captain: “We didn’t play well and the Slovenians were much better. I want to congratulate them. We generally played well in this tournament, no matter whom we faced – whether it was Estonia or Finland. I suppose that if it had been some other team, we would have won. Today we lacked this fire in our eyes, which has been propelling us during the group phase. Even when our serve was causing difficulties, Slovenia were able to receive perfectly and we had no solution at all for their serves.”

Ferdinando de Giorgi, Poland coach: “It was a hard day for Poland. We had a big desire to win and play tomorrow against Russia. Slovenia played very well, we were not be able to change anything in this match. Our attitude especially in the attack was not good. There was a big difference in this element between us and Slovenia. From our team's side we lost against Serbia, but the next two games we played pretty good and built confidence. Today me and my players wanted to win, but we could not change the situation on the court. That was the biggest problem for us. I think there was not pressure, but our technical skills failed. I need to say thank you to my players and my staff. We worked hard during this season. Some teams find the chemistry inside the group, some needs more time to find the balance. We have to work for the future of volleyball and improve the game of the young players.”

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