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28/08/2018 11:26
Team Norway – A ‘hybrid team’ with an eclectic captain, Jonas Kvalen
2019 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men

Luxembourg, August 27, 2018. Norway finished the first stage of qualifications for the 2019 #EuroVolleyM on a record of two wins and two losses – and especially with a truly sensational home victory over Spain that they claimed on Saturday in Fredrikstad. This is a remarkable achievement for a group of young players, who have been practicing this summer as a ‘hybrid team’. Their team captain and most experienced player on the international stage, Jonas Kvalen recounts an exciting campaign, where he played as a setter and as an opposite hitter too.

“It was the first ever victory over Spain for Norway and with this accomplishment we have the confidence and belief that we can beat some other top Volleyball nations in Europe as well. For many years, it has mostly been 1-3 and 2-3 losses against such good teams for us; however, with this victory over Spain we now know that we can compete with the top teams and have the upper hand in the end,” Kvalen says.

Team Norway have started somehow from scratch after Tore Aleksandersen became their head coach in late 2017. Aleksandersen has been working with a group of young players since late May but it has taken quite some time to figure out which starting six would be the ideal one to compete with some of Europe’s top teams. “We started working in late May and had another camp in June before we resumed working on July 20,” Kvalen says. “Some players could not attend all of these camps because they have a job or were busy with their studies, so we have been experimenting a lot the whole summer.”

Norway’s coaching staff had initially planned to play with the rather unusual two-setter system, with Kvalen and the only 18-year-old Jakob Thelle alternating as setter and opposite depending on which one was standing at the net and at the back of the court. “This was our initial option and what we practiced the most,” Kvalen continues, “even though you rarely get to see this system at the senior level. It is rather a good solution since it provides you with the opportunity to count on three different attackers standing at the net at the same time and it confuses the opponent too.”


However, this option did not produce the desired results in the #EuroVolleyM first qualifier against Belarus, and soon Kvalen moved to the opposite position with Henrik Aase Hole stepping in as the team’s setter and doing a great job. However, Hole injured a finger shortly before the home match with Georgia and this mixed things up again. “We changed our starting six again, we reverted back to the two-setter solution for Georgia and I played as a setter in the first match against Spain, which we lost,” Kvalen continues. “Luckily, Henrik’s injury healed before the home match with Spain, so we changed line-up again for that game, where he came in as a setter and I played opposite again.”

As Kvalen describes it, all of these changes have made the job “interesting, fun, motivating, but hard and demanding at the same time.” He is not the only player on the team who has experienced this – Kristian Bjelland played as a middle blocker during the qualifiers even though he usually is an outside hitter on his club, and Lars Fredrik Tvinde took on the libero position while he has been an outside hitter for most of his career. NCAA champion Bjarne Nikolai Huus played as a receiver after being the team’s libero for the past couple of years.  

“We have been changing things and experimenting a lot for the whole summer while searching for the ideal starting six, and sometimes this was due to injuries as well. However, it has been an exciting summer with so many young players, a new coach and with everyone sharing the goal of qualifying for the European Championship,” Kvalen, who is also the team captain, continues.

“It was the first time for me being the team captain. It is a privilege to have this role. I am still ‘fresh’ as a captain and I will continue to work hard in order to improve more as a leader. I am proud of what my team did during the European qualifiers and during the whole summer as well, where everyone has been working extremely hard. We capped it all off with a memorable home victory over Spain and we are still in the race for a spot in the Final Round, so the hard work was all worth it! We will see how we can do in January when we play the last matches in the pool with Belarus and Georgia. We still hope to qualify even though our goal is to make it to the Finals at least in 2021.”



After such an exciting summer and playing with a ‘hybrid team’, Kvalen will return to Switzerland early next week to spend his second season with LAUSANNE UC, the reigning national champions. Can you guess which position he will be taking there, setter or opposite? “I will be playing as an outside hitter,” Kvalen reveals with a smile. “Last season I was partly a receiver and the coach there wanted me to continue as an outside hitter for the next season, thinking I could have a great potential in that role. We want to defend our national title and win the Supercup due to take place in early October. Hopefully, as my coach thinks, I will make some further progress as an outside hitter and this will allow me to improve even further overall as a player.”

Kvalen will go back to Team Norway during the Christmas time and it is obviously too early to say which position he will be taking there when the #EuroVolleyM qualifiers reach their climax. Time will tell…

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