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20/06/2016 22:23
Estonia finish European League group stage with clean sheet, Austria secure historic qualification to Final Four
2016 CEV Volleyball European League - Men

Rakvere, Estonia, June 20, 2016. On the last day of the second round-robin tournament on schedule for Pool B of the 2016 CEV Volleyball European League – Men, some very important questions were due to be answered. Estonia completed their campaign in the group stage with a clean sheet for the second year in a row as Austria took the two sets they needed from the matchup with rookies Luxembourg to secure their historic progression to the Final Four which is due to take place in Varna on July 1-2, 2016. Estonia will be playing hosts Bulgaria in the semis, with Austria taking on last year’s silver medallists Former Y.R. of Macedonia for a spot in the gold medal match.

Luxembourg vs. Austria 0-3 (21-25, 26-28, 18-25)

Right from the start of the match Austria looked extremely determined to seize the day and a historic qualification to the Final Four of the European League. In order to achieve this goal, the Austrians needed to take at least two sets from their matchup with rookies Luxembourg.

The Grand Duchy’s team didn’t make it easy for the Austrians. In the first set the score remained close up to 22-21 before Thomas Zass (pictured below) went to serve and eventually closed it out 25-21. In the second one Luxembourg claimed a 17-12 lead but Austria erased it before edging ahead at 24-22. A mistake made by Austrian team captain Alexander Berger and a successful block by Jan Lux levelled the score at 24-all but in the end it was the Austrians’ great serve that secured them a ticket to the Final Four.
“We are very proud to go to Varna. We had set two major goals for this year. The first one was to be successful in the first qualifying round for the 2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship and the second one was to make it to the European League Final Four. We have achieved both of them and this shows that our team keeps on progressing,” Austrian head coach Michael Warm said.

Warm pointed out that Monday’s match with Luxembourg wasn’t his team’s best one but they were sure that they would manage to win at least two sets. “We lost concentration in some moments but I always had the feeling that if needed, we could make a step forward and rise to the occasion,” he added.

In their historic first participation in the Final Four, Austria will go against last year’s silver medallists Former Y. R. of Macedonia in the semis scheduled for July 1.

For the European League rookies from the Grand Duchy this year’s campaign ended with six losses and they managed to win only one set against Austria in the first round-robin tournament two weeks ago. “Usually we play one or two matches over a year, now we had six high-level matches within two weeks and I think that for playing in the European League for the first time we did quite well. I am satisfied with my team’s performance,” Luxembourg head coach Dieter Scholl commented. “Also I can see it from my players’ eyes that they would like to be more competitive and I know they are willing to work harder in order to make another step in their development and reach a higher level,” he added.

Belarus vs. Estonia 2-3 (21-25, 15-25, 25-23, 25-23, 7-15)

For the second consecutive year Estonia ended the European League group phase with a clean sheet. The hardest victory came in the last match where Belarus put on a real fight, coming back from two sets down to make it to the tie-break.  

“It was a very good match for the audience with great serves, good defensive play and a lot of long rallies. It was a good game; however, now drawing the line this campaign in the European League has been a big disappointment for us. We came here with big hopes but the result we achieved in the match against Austria was not what we wished for. But Austria played very well,” Belarus outside spiker Andrei Radziuk commented.

Estonian team captain Kert Toobal (pictured above) said that in the third and fourth sets his team did not keep the same level of focus as in the previous ones. “But we had a good start to the decisive set and we had to win that one. There were so many of our supporters here tonight that we just had to win this match,” he said.

In the Final Four Estonia is going to fight with Bulgaria in the semis. “Hopefully this year we are a little bit less tired. Last year there were more matches and the Final Four tournament was only a few days after the end of the group matches. Now we have almost two weeks to rest a little bit and fix some things we have to improve on,” Toobal added.

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the matches

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30/06/2016 17:44:00
All set for men’s European League Final Four in Varna
19/06/2016 21:40:00
Estonia extend European League winning streak to five straight matches

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