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09/08/2015 23:06
Slovenia emulate Estonia with tenth straight win, Greece miss out on Final Four spot, Former Y.R. of Macedonia is through
2015 CEV Volleyball European League - Men

Maribor, Slovenia, August 9, 2015. Sunday’s re-match with Slovenia whereby the group stage of the 2015 CEV Volleyball European League – Men came to a close in Maribor was also the very last opportunity for Greece to seal their spot in the Final Four tournament coming up on August 13-14 in Walbrzych, Poland. Greece had already missed their first chance on Saturday by losing the first match with Slovenia by 1:3; they still needed to take at least one point from Sunday’s re-match to edge ahead of the Former Y.R. of Macedonia in the race for the Finals but they failed to do so. Slovenia, on the other hand, sealed their tenth straight win in the competition (25-23, 25-20, 23-25, 26-24) after Greece’s comeback in the fourth set from 16:20 and 21:23 did not produce the desired result. Slovenia, Estonia, hosts Poland and the Former Y.R. of Macedonia will therefore contest the final stage of the competition.

The Greek players were under quite a lot of a pressure, but highly motivated at the beginning of the first set; still the Slovenians edged ahead for the first time with Alen Pajenk’s block for the provisional 5:3, and for the second time they got the lead also at the first technical time-out. This time Tine Urnaut was successful in blocking. The home team broke away by three points at 15:12 with Alen Sket’s effective serves and Sotirios Drikos called his players off the court for the first time. After an 18:15 lead the Slovenian team had problems to finalise their attacks and Greece managed to get to the front at 18:19. Andrea Giani’s players paced the game once again, moving the score up to 24:21, before the visitors reduced their gap to one point at 24:23; Nikolaos Palentzas made a service error to hand the opening set over to Slovenia (25-23).  

The score was tight from the beginning of the second set and all the way through to 9 all. The Slovenians were the ones who were one point up at the first technical time-out, but then Greece responded by flipping the charts around leading first by two points at 8:10 and after that by three at 10:13. Pajenk and Sket kept their team on track, and with Jan Kozamernik’s block and Dejan Vincic’s serve the score was leveled at 14 all, thereby forcing Drikos to take a time-out. Greece edged ahead by one point at the second technical time-out, but Mitja Gasparini served three consecutive winners to move his team up to a 21:17 lead, thereby paving the way for the final 25-20.

Greece quickly scored four points in the early stages of the third set, but Gasparini answered with two aces to make it 4 all. The visitors got control of the game in the middle stages of the third set, leading even by five points at 9:14. Giani decided to give some playing time to Gregor Ropret and Jan Pokersnik as they replaced Vincic and Gasparini, but Greece maintained their lead. At 16:20 Gasparini served two winners after returning to the court before Sket and Urnaut’s attacks made it 23:22 for Slovenia. It was a very dramatic final rush but eventually Greece brought it home at 25-23 to keep alive their chances to make the Final Four.

Team Greece established a cushion of four points already at the beginning of the fourth set and at this stage Slovenia’s mentor Andrea Giani decided to take a half-minute break. The visitors continued to put pressure with good serving, leading by 8:2 at the first technical time-out. Pajenk with ace and Vincic with two blocks in a row got Slovenia back on track. Urnaut and Gasparini continued Slovenia’s efforts to claim back control of the game with two points and the tie was eventually there at 14 all. The Slovenians stepped up their efforts even more, edged ahead by two at 22:20 and preserved their lead at 24:22. In a dramatic final rush the home team, supported by the passionate crowd of Maribor, sealed their tenth consecutive victory in Pool B thereby keeping their immaculate record in the competition whilst because of their 1:3 loss, Greece miss out on a spot in the Final Four.

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the match

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