Slovakia want to write history by making Worlds for the first time
This will also be the debut of Italian-born head coach Flavio Gulinelli at the helm of the Slovak national team after he replaced Stefan Chrtiansky under whose guidance Slovakia finished in eleventh place at the 2013 CEV Volleyball European Championship co-hosted by Denmark and Poland last September. “We started our preparations shortly before Christmas and for a few days we basically got to know each other” says the 54-year old Gulinelli. “I can only say that my players worked really hard and have showed a lot of professionalism during our preparations. I am happy with the attitude they have showed. We only had a very short time to prepare but I think that we are ready for this tournament” he adds.
As they were gearing up for this home qualifier, Slovakia beat the Czech Republic twice and always in straight sets. “I was happy with the result but especially with the quality we showed in these matches” Gulinelli stresses. “Anyway, we need to play better than we did with the Czechs if we want to make it to the World Champs. I can’t guarantee that we will achieve this goal but I can surely guarantee that we will be doing our best to make it there.” Slovakia started their preparations for this tournament with all of their stars playing abroad, including wing-spiker Lukas Divis, middle-blocker Tomas Kmet, and setter Branislav Skladany.
“Everyone says Finland will be our toughest opponent but in order to finish atop the charts we also need to win our games with Greece and Ukraine. And this is not going to be that easy. Greece has a very good and experienced team and their players have been playing at the highest international level for quite some time. As for Ukraine, most of their players have been together since the start of the season playing in the Russian Superleague for the likes of Lokomotiv KHARKIV, so this can be their advantage. It won’t be easy for us here in Poprad” concludes Gulinelli who also coaches Ural UFA in Russia’s national league.
The home heroes will rely on the support of their fans to write history and make the Worlds for the first time since Slovakia’s independence in 1993. Poprad is a city with a long tradition in Volleyball and the local people are fond of the sport. “We like playing in Poprad because the fans always come to see our matches and that is a big boost for us” says libero Roman Ondrusek. “What’s more we always have achieved good results here in Poprad and have won many important games, so this is quite a good omen ahead of this tournament” he concludes.