The home heroes claimed a very close first set (25-23) but after that Belgium imposed their pace playing superbly in defense and serving really well to go for yet another victory. Next weekend the players mentored by head coach Dominique Baeyens will try go for more glory at the final four that is set to take place in Marmaris, Turkey.
“I am really proud of my team today for we played a very motivated Slovak side” Baeyens said. “We did not start that good as my players felt anxious and the responsibility to finish the prelims with an impeccable record. They wanted it so badly that they started making mistakes. However, everything went well from the second set onwards and I am happy that we finish the group stage with 12 victories. We are looking forward to the final four and hope to play our best there.”
Bram Van den Dries and Pieter Coolman paced Belgium in their winning effort with 13 points apiece while Slovakia’s opposite Milan Bencz top scored in the game with 17.
“We played good and our intention was to beat Belgium in our fourth clash since the start of the season” said Slovak head coach Stefan Chrtiansky. “However, they played much better than we did; they pressured us with their serve and showed once again that they are a good team. I think that they are the favorites to win the European League this year.”
In the other match of the day Austria beat Denmark 3:1 (22-20, 26-24, 18-21, and 24-22) to finish the prelims in third place with 14 points. Denmark missed out on some good opportunities in the first set where they went up even by five points but eventually Austria finished it off at 22-20. The same happened in the fourth where Denmark could not cash some set balls and call for what would have been a well-deserved tie-break.
Alexander Berger top scored for Austria with 20 points while Mads Ditlevsen paced Denmark with 22.
“I think both teams are very tired. We played good in the final section of all sets showing our best qualities there” said Austria’s head coach Michael Warm. “We finished the competition with a victory and this is good for us.”
“I must give credit to Austria for they always found a way to win the close sets” Fred Sturm, the head coach of Denmark, commented. “Mads Ditlevsen is the undisputed leader of our team and he played very good today. The European League is very important for us for we have learned a lot and even though we are disappointed as we did not win that many matches, it still remains a great opportunity to play strong teams. We will have some rest now and then start our preparations for the European Championship.”
To read more about this competition, click on European League 2013 M.