Golden couple at heart of Belgium’s rise
At the heart of the two teams are Pieter Verhees and Laura Heyrman, two young middle-blockers, who are driving their teams to ever-greater success.
Heyrman made her breakthrough in 2009, when aged 16 she helped win gold at the CEV Youth European Championship in Rotterdam and bronze at the FIVB U19 World Championship. The 205cm-tall Verhees also tasted success at age-group level when he won a bronze at the 2007 CEV Youth European Championship.
They are now both based in Italy where Heyrman is enjoying her first season playing for Liu Jo Volley Modena and where Verhees is in his second season with Andreoli Latina.
“I am really happy with the decision I made to move to Italy even though at the beginning it was not that easy,” Verhees said. “However, after a certain time you adjust to a different environment and I really like the Italian way of life.”
In the final qualifying round Belgium beat Spain, Belarus and then faced France for a place at Poland 2014. They needed a tie-break to win and qualify and now they will face their neighbours again in Pool D. Belgium were drawn in a group with Italy, Iran, France, plus the first and fourth ranked NORCECA sides.
“This time Italy and France will not underestimate us,” Verhees said. “I think we can go for fourth place in the Pool and then everything is possible in the next round. Our biggest challenge will be to make it through the first round.”
The women’s team meanwhile will have to wait a little longer to find out who they will take on at Italy 2014 and how their path towards the medals is likely to play out.
“It all depends on the teams we are going to play in the Pool phase,” Heyrman said. “However, I think that if you look at the current strength and skills of our players, we can realistically hope to make the second phase. Anyway I think it is a bit too early to speak about results and expectations.”