Men's Austrian Airlines Top Teams Cup 2004/2005
Piraeus, Greece, March 11, 2005. Ortec VC Nesselande ROTTERDAM made it first to the final of the men's Austrian Airlines Top Teams Cup 2004/05, which is taking place in the especially for the Olympic Games 2004 constructed Peace & Friendship stadium in the Greek port city of Piraeus in Athens, beating their compatriots from Omniworld ALMERE 3:0 in the first semifinal of the day. The highlight for the 5'000 local supporters followed shortly after when Olympiacos PIRAEUS overthrew the fourth semifinalist Dukla LIBEREC from the Czech Republic in a straight set victory.
It was already clear from the beginning of the Final Four in the men's Austrian Airlines Top Teams Cup 2004/05 that a Dutch team would become the first finalist when Ortec Nesselande ROTTERDAM faced Omniworld ALMERE in the first semifinal of the competition, both teams eager to follow in the footsteps of their fellow team Piet Zoomers APELDOORN, who won the Top Teams Cup 2003 in the Netherlands against Lokomotiv KHARKIV (UKR), winner in 2004.
Witnessed by a majority of Dutch fans the team from ROTTERDAM coached by Peter Blangé took an early lead, which they never relinquished. Even though ALMERE managed to balance the score several times in the first set, they didn't succeed in turning the score to their favour, so that ROTTERDAM booked a first set victory (25-19). The second set wasn't any different: ROTTERDAM kept the upper hand with Allan Van de Loo and Marko Klok securing the points through strong attacks and serving (6-2, 10-5). ALMERE came back to a one-point difference (14-13) thanks to 2.14 m tall Kay Van Dijk's scoring on attack and left hander Jeroen Trommel's clever play, however, ROTTERDAM kept their cool, finally managing to secure a 2:0 set lead (25-20). Not giving up yet, the six players of head coach Arno Van Solkema started better into the third set (2-3), taking a maximum four-point advantage at 18-14 following a tremendous block by 22-year old Joppe Paulides. The blocks were the key in this final phase of the third set, however, Ortec Nesselande's blocks proved to be just a little tick more effective when Albert Cristina defended successfully to get his team back into the match (18-20). At 22-22 ALMERE took the lead once more (22-23) before ROTTERDAM scored the next three points in a row, securing their place in the final (25-23).
Best scorer of the match was Allan Van de Loo (Ortec VC Nesselande ROTTERDAM) with 14 points, whilst Kay Van Dijk scored a total 13 points for the losing team. "Even though we won 3:0, it wasn't as easy as the score looks", stated Marko Klok, captain of the winning team, after the match, "I'm glad that we managed to regain our level near the end of the third set." Head coach and former Dutch national player Peter Blangé totally agrees with the team captain, adding that they might have been a bit luckier than their opponents at the end. "We're hoping to come against the home team Olympiacos PIRAEUS in the final, first of all because we know them better than Dukla LIBEREC and second of all because of the great atmosphere it will create with the local supporters", they concluded. On the other hand, ALMERE reasoned their defeat by having committed too many unforced errors.
In the second semifinal of the day the host squad of Olympiacos PIRAEUS met Czech Dukla LIBEREC in a sports hall filled with red and white colours. With the support of the ongoing chanting of their faithful supporters Olympiacos quickly gained the upper hand with their Argentinean star player Marcos Milinkovic, MVP of the World Championships 2002 and winner of the Indesit European Champions' League 2000 with Italian Sisley TREVISO, scoring point after point (9-6). Nevertheless, Jan Jeslinek, Filip Rejlek and Jiri Zadrazil kept the guest team in the game, showing off their strong spiking skills (12-12, 19-18). At 22-22 however PIRAEUS turned up a gear with Konstantinos Christofidelis and Marcos Milinkovic booking the next three points for the 25-22 first set victory. Carrying on confidently into the second set the players of head coach Claudio Cuello dominated the match. Outstanding performances by Marcos Milinkovic, Theodoros Chatziantoniou and Antonios Tsakiropoulos saved Olympiacos the 2:0 set lead with Dukla LIBEREC finding it difficult to resist (25-17). Although the visiting team from the Czech Republic took an early lead in the third set (1-3, 5-7) they couldn't defend it, allowing the Greeks to balance (8-8, 10-10) and increasing their advantage continuously (12-10, 19-11). 2.05 m tall Marcos Milinkovic scored in attack as well as in defense and with the help of augmenting unforced errors by the guest team, the locals decided the third set and the match in their favour (25-20). Best scorer of the match was Jan Jeslinek (Dukla LIBEREC) with 14 points, closely followed by Marcos Milinkovic (13 points).
"We knew we were facing a strong team who serve well", stated the 33-year old Argentinean national player, "the key to victory was our serve." Piotr Brom, head coach from Dukla LIBEREC, explained the problems his team faced in reception due to the opponents? strong serving power.
Whilst Olympiacos PIRAEUS is looking to regain the Top Teams Cup title after their 1996 success, Ortec VC Nesselande ROTTERDAM is hoping to follow in the footsteps of their Dutch compatriots Piet Zoomers APELDOORN who won the Top Teams Cup 2003 in their own country.
Austrian Airlines Top Teams Cup 2004/05
Final Four in Piraeus (GRE)
Ortec VC Nesselande ROTTERDAM (NED) - Omniworld ALMERE (NED) 3:0 25-19, 25-20, 25-23 80 mins
Olympiacos PIRAEUS (GRE) - Dukla LIBEREC (CZE)
3:0 25-22, 25-17, 25-20 78 mins
Further match schedule
Saturday, 12 March 2005
16.00 Classification match 3-4 Omniworld ALMERE (NED) - Dukla LIBEREC (CZE)
18.00 Final Olympiacos PIRAEUS (GRE) - Ortec VC Nesselande ROTTERDAM (NED)