Bratislava, Slovakia, June 5, 2014 - The Slovakia men´s volleyball national team will start its historical first campaign in the FIVB World League in a good mood.
The team mentored by Italian head coach Flavio Gulinelli advanced successfully to the 2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship finals, which will be held in Bulgaria and Italy. It will be the fifth consecutive, and the eighth overall, participation of Slovakia’s men in the European Championship finals.
Slovakia won its qualification pool with five victories from six games, finishing its marvellous run with three victories in the second tournament of qualification in Rentis, Greece.
Before the last match against Greece, the team knew that only one successful set would be enough for the top spot in the pool. The Slovaks won the very first set and the mission was immediately completed, but they did not stop there and won the match in straight sets.
"I am happy for the guys, this is a good success for us. Direct qualification was our goal and we are happy. I am especially pleased that the guys played great through the entire match and did not finish after the first set. Moments like this are building strong mentality of the team and we have showed great team spirit," said head coach Gulinelli.
The team had very short time to celebrate, because only a few hours after the victory in Greece the squad flew to Puerto Rico where Slovakia will make its debut in the FIVB Volleyball World League 2014. Captain and setter Michal Masny and middle blocker Emanuel Kohut flew from Greece back home where they received big attention from the media.
"We confirmed that we are in the group of the top teams in Europe. After the first tournament on our home soil in Poprad, the situation in the pool was open for three teams, but we showed very good performances in Greece," said Masny who asked for the coach’s permission not to play in the World League because of the hard club season with his Polish side Jastrzebski Wegiel. "I decided not to participate in the World League this season, but I wish the guys the best," Masny added.
Slovakia was successful in the qualifications without some other experienced players like Tomas Kmet, Lukas Divis and Branislav Skladany who missed the matches for different reasons. "We were able to fix our gaps. This team had less experience, but the guys worked very well and I was always confident that this group of players will be successful," Gulinelli commented.
Middle blocker Emanuel Kohut put the final dot in Greece when he hit an ace with which Slovakia won the first set against the home team by 25-22. "It is dangerous to play when you know that one set is enough. We were very concentrated from the start and our goal was to win not only one set, but the whole match.
We played in Greece without our important receiver Frantisek Ogurcak who was injured during the first tournament, but we were able to replace him and I am very glad," said Kohut, who also did not fly with the team to Puerto Rico, but will return to the team for second tournament of Pool G in Kosice, Slovakia.
Slovakia participated in the final tournaments of the European championships in 1997, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013 and will do so in 2015. The best result achieved by Slovakia was in 2011 when it finished fifth in Austria and the Czech Republic.
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