In the Middle European Championship, which is also considered the qualifier for the U18 Men’s European Championship, the final group, and semi-final matches were played yesterday.
First, Slovenia faced Austria on their home ground. The match decided about the first place in Group A, as on the first day both teams defeated Hungary. Beforehand, there was no clear favorite, however, the Austrian team showed much more, as they won in straight sets. From the start of the match and all the way to the end of it, the Austrians were in control and better from their peers in all volleyball elements. With an excellent serve, block and floor defence they stopped the most dangerous Slovenian player, Rok Bracko, who ended with only six points on 15% hitting percentage. Austria’s top scorer was outside hitter Tim Berger, who scored 15 points.
In Group B, the two undefeated teams met first and it was the Czech Republic that ended up being the better opponent in this match. They had a better serve, less reception errors, six blocks more and were significantly more effective in their hitting than Israel. Rudolf Stieber and David Kollator scored 12 points each for the Czech team and Ofeck Hazan eight for Israel. The match between Slovakia and Croatia decided about the third place in the group. Slovakia played less convincingly only in the second set, which they let slip, but were the better team otherwise and recorded a win. They scored as many as 13 blocks, while their opponents only five. They were also more aggressive with their serve and more stable on reception. Not even 16 points from Nikola Juret and Duje Cvijovic each was enough for more than a set for Croatia. Adrian Petruf was Sloavakia’s top scorer with 20 points.
The first semi-final was therefore between Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Jan Svoboda’s selections showed much more and won with a convincing 3-0. They scored as many as 13 service aces, Slovenia only three, and were also slightly better in the attack and the block. The Czechs were a more complete team, with no standout individual performance, as five players scored nine or more points. For Slovenia Rok Bracko scored 15 points. Zoran Kedacic, Slovenia’s head coach was somewhat disappointed after the game: »We missed our opportunity to play in the final with a bad game in the group phase against Austria, where we played poorly and lost. Due to this we had to face the Czechs in the semifinals, who were too strong for us despite our good performance. We will look for our opportunity to qualify for the European Championships again in April, and are aiming to finish this tournament in third place. “
The second finalist was decided in the other semifinal between Austria and Israel. True, Austria won in straight sets, but definitely not as easy as the result initially implies. All three sets were tight, decided by a two-point margin, the last one even with a score of 33:31. Jacob Kitzinger and Michael Czerwinski combined for two-thirds of all attack attempts and scored 27 points out of the teams total 37 points. For only three sets, Austria made quite a few service errors with 19 misses. For Israel Alon Haas stood out with 12 points in total. Otherwise, the teams were very even in the serve-reception efficiency, but Austria had five blocks more and also scored five more points in the attack than their opponent.
Israel will today compete for third place against Slovenia, Austria in the final against the pre-tournament favorite Czech Republic for the European Championship ticket, while Hungary and Slovakia will compete for the final fifth place.
Photo Credit: Draš Center