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17/02/2016 21:09
Heroic PGE Skra defeat Ziraat Bankasi to move closer to Playoffs 6
2016 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League – Men

Lodz, Poland, February 17, 2016. PGE Skra BELCHATOW defeated Ziraat Bankasi ANKARA 3-1 (25-19, 25-27, 25-20, 27-25) to take the ‘pole position’ in the fight for a place in the Playoffs 6 of the 2016 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League – Men. The Polish Cup winners fought not only with the opponents but also with health problems as four of their players were hospitalised only a few hours before the start of the match.

“I am very proud of the team and of my players. Facundo Conte, Nicolas Uriarte, Nicolas Marechal and Andrzej Wrona had high fever. Despite that they did a great job. Conte showed his leadership but all my players were incredible. It was not the best of our matches, but we won 3-1 and we are in a good position before the second leg. My players were simply heroic tonight,” stated PGE Skra coach Miguel Angel Falasca.

“We had our chances but did not play well from the wings, which usually is our advantage. We missed the chance to make it to the tie-break but we still can advance to the next round. I really believe in that,” said the Spanish-born coach of Ziraat Bankasi, Fernando Muñoz Benitez.

PGE Skra had to perform not only with players coming back straight from hospital, but also without the injured Michal Winiarski (who is side-lined until the end of the season) and without their charismatic captain Mariusz Wlazły. The biggest star of PGE Skra and the captain of the Polish team, MVP of the 2014 FIVB World Championship suffered muscle problems on Wednesday and could only watch his teammates from the bench. When the home team earned an early lead (7-4) after Facundo Conte and Israel Rodriguez killed all of their four attacks, it looked like Skra could win the match even without Wlazly. However, a series of mistakes put Ziraat Bankasi in front (12-9) and forced Miguel Angel Falasca to ask for his first time-out. The PGE Skra mentor took also the important decision to substitute opposite Marcel Gromadowski, who played with an injured foot and had killed only one out of five attacks at this stage, and replace him with nominal winger Nicolas Marechal. It worked out just fine, also with the help of a lot of mistakes made by the Turkish team. In the first set, closed at 25-19 after Conte’s ace, Ziraat Bankasi gave away eight points on their own mistakes and managed to kill only five out of 28 attacks (for an overall poor 18% success rate).

Powerful serves by Israel Rodriguez, playing versus his previous club, combined with Marechal’s attacks, gave PGE Skra the advantage in the second set (11-7). Even a couple of better attacks of Marcus Nilsson (who had recorded zero points in the opening set) did not help the team of Fernando Muñoz Benitez. Ziraat mentor decided to replace the Swedish-born opposite with Oliver Venno, and after his good actions and a counterattack executed by Alexandre Ferreira, the team from Turkey’s capital eventually edged ahead (21-20). PGE Skra got one set point but the hosts did not use this opportunity and the last word belonged to the visitors after Marechal sent the ball out of bounds for the eleventh mistake made by home team in the second set.

The hosts regained their confidence in the middle of the third set, when Conte showed his skills to make it 13-10 with some superb back-row attacks. PGE Skra eventually claimed the third set, but it did not mark the end of the emotions. Alex Ferreira was the man who took the leadership in the Turkish team and propelled a 20-16 lead for Ziraat Bankasi in set 4. The end of the set and the match belonged to PGE Skra and Srecko Lisinac, who finished his already great performance in style. The Serbian middle blocker earned also the first match point for the home side with a powerful attack, moving the score to 24-23. However, Facundo Conte was the man who made happy as many as 8,390 spectators in attendance, with a perfect serve to close the set 27-25 and with it also the match!

Conte was the best scorer in the end with 18 points, while Lisinac added 17 (killing 14 out of 18 attacks and adding three blocks) and Rodriguez 16. Alexandre Ferreira scored 12 for the visitors, while Jeroen Rauwerdink added 11 to the count of Ziraat Bankasi.

“It is a pleasure to play in Poland, and to perform in front of such an audience. We enjoyed it but regret we lost the fourth set this way. PGE Skra is an experienced team, and they just took their chances,” said Hüseyin Koc, the team captain of Ziraat Bankasi ANKARA.

Click here for a video interview with Ziraat Bankasi star player Marcus Nilsson

Click here for a video interview with PGE Skra BELCHATOW outside spiker Israel Rodriguez

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the match

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