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31/05/2012 07:00
European League a great learning opportunity for young Israel's national teams
2012 CEV Volleyball European League - Men & Women

Netanya, Israel, May 31, 2012. Israel men’s national team debuted in the 2012 CEV Volleyball European League this past weekend in Katerini, Greece, as the group mentored by head coach Zohar Bar-Netzer is actually joining this competition for the first time in history. On the other side, the ladies guided by legendary Arie Selinger are involved in the European League for a third consecutive season and will play their first matches this coming weekend in Brno, Czech Republic.
A press conference – broadcasted live on Channel 5 – was recently held at the premises of the “Wingate Institute” in Netanya where the head coaches and captains of the Israeli national teams discussed, together with the President of the Israel Volleyball Association, Jacob Shtofman, their expectations for this campaign. “I would like to express my joy for having the men’s national team also participating in the European League” said Mr. Shtofman. “Although we are being confronted with financial constraints, we do our best to support the activities and development of our national teams. We have a lot of expenses, especially in order to guarantee the security of our players, and we have approached quite many sponsors to get their support but so far did not receive a positive feedback” he continued. He also stressed that the development projects implemented by the IVA are producing good results as a couple of young players – Ariel Katzenelson and Tamir Hershko – coming out of the IVA Volleyball Academy recently joined the men’s national team displaying very solid performances in their opening matches this past week in Greece.    

Dr. Arie Selinger insisted in saying that the European League is an excellent opportunity to test out young players as he is about to rejuvenate the group. “I would like to praise the efforts that are being made to support the men’s national team as they have finally started working with a well-defined program and their participation in the European League represents quite evidently a huge step forward for Volleyball here in Israel. As for my group, we qualified for the final four two years ago as we had just joined the European League while last year we lost all of our matches. We do not have high expectations for this campaign as our main goal remains to get some valuable experience and get ready for the second qualifying round for the 2013 European Championship which is scheduled for September. We are coming back from a very fruitful training camp in Slovenia and feel ready to play our rivals this weekend, namely the Czech Republic, Greece and the Netherlands. I have been working with these young girls for five months and I think they can go for a bright future, also not ruling out that we can have our own chances with Spain, Slovakia and Sweden when it comes to try to qualify for the next edition of the European Championship”.
“This group has been completely rejuvenated in comparison with the past years but we have been working hard and even though we do not have so high expectations for the time being, we shall be able to improve match after match and reach our top for the European qualifiers in September” added team captain Ron Ponte.  

The head coach of the men’s national team, Zohar Bar-Netzer, was already drawing the line after the first weekend of play in Katerini. “I am really disappointed that we could not take any set out of our three matches there, especially since we provided strong teams like Spain and Slovakia with a very good resistance. However, I am quite happy with the performance delivered by Tamir Hershko and Ariel Katzenelson who have just joined the group directly from the junior national team. We are trying our best to emulate the great results achieved by Dr. Selinger with the women’s team but we cannot ignore that our players are very young and inexperienced when it comes to the international arena. Most of our guys are playing in Israel where the rhythm of the matches is very slow and they have to adapt to a totally different pace, which our best guys – Alex Shafranovich and Itamar Stein – are already used to after spending quite a few seasons in Europe. I hope that we will be able to claim our first win next weekend as we play our home round thereby paying back the IVA for their support and help, while we are also trying to prepare for the European qualifiers coming up in September”. Israel will be playing at home this coming June 8-10 hosting Greece, Denmark and Slovakia.
“I believe that we did play pretty well this past weekend in Greece especially as teams like Spain and Slovakia were coming out of the Olympic qualification tournament in Sofia and therefore they were already on top form. We did not have much luck in the final section of all sets where we were not able to finish it off because we still lack experience and composure to control such moments” added captain Shafranovich, who plays in Germany for Generali UNTERHACHING. “There is a huge difference between friendly and international matches that our players have to adapt to. I also hope we can claim our first wins next weekend as we play in front of our fans” he concluded.     

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