Vienna, Austria. Team Austria finalised their preparations for the upcoming CEV EuroVolley 2021 Men qualifier that they will contest next week in Israel with a friendly match they played against the top Austrian team from the past few years, SK Zadruga AICH/DOB. The players coached by Radovan Gacic came back from one set down to produce a 3-1 victory (21-25, 25-18, 25-21, 25-20) at the VIVA Sports Centre in Steinbrunn, where they have been working since back in December to prepare for the much-awaited EuroVolley qualifier.
Team Austria edged their opponents in attack (56 to 49, i.e. 51% success rate vs. 42%) as well as with their blocking game (15 stuffs to seven for the opponents), while recording four aces in the process (AICH/DOB could not score any). Niklas Kronthaler and Anton Lukas Menner top scored for Austria with a personal tally of 17 and 12 points, respectively. AICH/DOB responded with 12 points by Sergej Drobnic and 10 scored by Konrad Formela.
“This victory is of course very important, also mentally. We needed this sort of match to get a boost of confidence. Our coach made many changes so that all members of the team could join the action. Everything did work out a lot better than it did against Jihostroj Ceske Budejovice in the few sets we played at the beginning of the week. Therefore, we can be satisfied,” said team captain Peter Wohlfahrtstätter.
The match coincided with the first victory for Gacic at the helm of Team Austria. In 2020, there were no friendlies or competition matches at all due to the coronavirus pandemic. “It was our best performance this week, even if we made too many mistakes halfway through the first set. The block and defence were good, and we controlled the match by putting pressure with our service,” said Gacic. “Now we can travel to Israel by feeling some positive pressure.”
After a last day of training, the team set will leave Steinbrunn on Saturday morning towards Hadera, where between February 12 and 17 they will meet the hosts and top volleyball nation Bulgaria twice. The eventual pool winners will secure their participation in the EuroVolley Final Round, while the runners-up will have to wait until mid-May for completion of all remaining pools to know their fate. Austria qualified for the EuroVolley Final Round for the first time in 2019, when they finished the competition in 23rd place.