Second edition of CEV Continental Cup to get underway this weekend in Slovenia
The players of Slovenia's national team for the first round of the 2014/2016 CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup attending a press conference in Ljubljana ahead of the upcoming tournament in Portoroz |
Portoroz, Slovenia, June 12, 2014 - The CEV
Beach Volleyball Continental Cup is returning to Slovenia after the small city
of Zrece hosted a Sub-Zonal event four years ago.
The first round tournament coming up this
weekend in Portoroz marks the start of the second edition of the CEV Beach
Volleyball Continental Cup whereby teams will have an extra opportunity to
qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The home teams of Slovenia
will be playing pairs from Belgium, Northern Ireland, Norway, and Scotland.
A press conference was organised in Ljubljana shortly before the last mini
training camp of the home teams. The players from the host country all agreed
that Norway is the clear-cut favourite of the tournament and Belgium is most
likely to be Slovenia’s closest competitor for the second spot available to
move on straight to the third stage of the Continental Cup coming up next year.
All other teams will continue their quest for that coveted ticket to the
Olympics via the second round scheduled for August/September 2014.
Slovenia does not have much information on the players that will represent
Northern Ireland and Scotland, who are both making their debut in the Continental
Cup. The only exception is Scotland’s Lynne Beattie, a 2012 Olympian for Team
GB who played in Slovenia for Calcit Kamnik and is therefore well-known in that
The Secretary General of the Slovenian Volleyball Federation, Gregor Humerca, is
looking forward to the start of the tournament in Portoroz: “We are honoured
with hosting the CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup again here in Slovenia.
These events are of great importance for small countries like ours, especially
for the promotion of this sport among the youth. We are constantly trying to
put Beach Volleyball on Slovenia’s sports map. Volleyball already made its
breakthrough over the past years and now we all hope that the same will happen
for beach volleyball as well.”
Andrej Tot and Tomislav Smuc will lead the Slovenian teams in Portoroz. They
both have been involved in beach volleyball for quite some time but this will
be their first appearance as head coaches of the national team. “Our players
have been working hard, they are playing good and we agreed that they wouldn’t
change anything special to their ordinary training regime. We are here mostly
to support them and work on tactics, and of course we hope they can make the third
round of the competition,” Smuc said.
Nejc Zemljak, a 2005 U19 world champion, will miss his former partner Tine
Urnaut in Portoroz, but is happy to join forces with Jernej Potocnik: “I am
happy with the opportunity to represent Slovenia on the international stage,”
he said. “We won our national qualifiers which were very tight from the first
up to the last point. Though we hadn’t played together since 2010, we did not
have any problem to find the right understanding and chemistry. As Tomislav
said, our goal is to progress directly to the third round. We will give our
best to achieve this goal. We first have to edge the teams from Belgium and
then we will see what happens next.”
One of the players representing Belgium, Aljosa Urnaut, has a special
connection with Slovenia, since his grandfather Adolf, father Andrej and uncle
Tine are all volleyball players.
Tine Urnaut is the current captain of Slovenia men’s national team. Slovenia’s
best beach volleyball players in recent times, i.e. siblings Simona and Erika
Fabjan as well as Andreja Vodeb have all retired from competitive sport.
Tamara Borko has taken a year off, and so Sara Sakovic and Ana Skarlovnik have
teamed up with new partners, namely Kaja Turk and Jelena Pesic who is back on
sand after having two children. “I was so happy when Ana asked me to join her,”
Pesic said. “Though we did not have much time to train and practice together,
we just won our national qualifying event for the Continental Cup thereby
showing that we have taken the right step. Personally I do not know much about
the other teams but I am confident that we can make it to the 3rd round.”
The competition in Portoroz will start on Saturday morning at 8:45 am with the
first round of matches.
Norway is set to line up a bunch of very experienced players, including Iver
Andreas Horrem/Geir Eithun and Janne Kongshavn/Victoria Faye Kjølberg.