Puerto Vallarta experience suits newly paired German team
“The venue is great, the sand is perfect, the hotel is super and the food is good,” said the 32-year old Koreng, who teamed with Dittelbach to eliminate pairs from Argentina and China Friday to advance to Saturday’s first men’s semifinal match in the FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open against second-seeded Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins of Latvia.
“Except for our first match of the tournament against a second Latvian team, our stay has been perfect,” said Dittelbach, who turned 24 last month. “Both teams struggled in the first match due to the hot and humid conditions. They (Edvarts Buivids and Ruslans Sorokins of Latvia) made fewer errors and defeated us pretty good (21-18 and 21-13).”
Despite the setback in their first match, the Germans rebounded in pool play to score wins over teams from Brazil and Austria to advance to the elimination rounds Friday where Dittelbach and Koreng posted wins over 15th-seeded Julian Azaad/Pablo Bianchi of Argentina (21-17 and 21-18) and fourth-seeded Grimalt cousins (Esteban and Marco) of Chile (21-15 and 21-19).
On the strength of three gold medals finishes and six appearances in the South American confederation finals this season in seven tournaments, the Grimalt cousins entered the Puerto Vallarta Open as the top team on the 2014 FIVB World rankings while Dittelbach and Koreng were ranked 155th having played in only one tournament that counted for points in the FIVB World Rankins.
“The Grimalts are a good team and we just played better defense and had a good service game to beat them,” said Koreng, who was playing in his 82nd FIVB World Tour event compared to Dittlelbach’s sixth. “The Chileans will be very competitive this season. They are still new to the world tour, so they will get better with each tournament. We put a lot of pressure on them this afternoon with our serve and defense.”
The fifth-place finish is the best FIVB World Tour finish for the Grimalts, who placed ninth last season at the São Paulo Grand Slam last October in Brazil. “We had trouble siding out today against the Germans,” said 23-year old Esteban Grimalt. “We are disappointed with play right now, but overall, we are pleased to finish fifth this week. Hopefully, we’ll learn from our mistakes today and play better the next time out.”
Dittelbach/Koreng will be playing in their second FIVB World Tour semifinal after placing fourth last July at the Anapa Open in Russia. With both Germans ailing due to a stomach ailment, Dittelbach and Koreng struggled through a semifinal setback before forfeiting the bronze medal match.
“We just had no strength to compete at a high level,” said, Koreng, who placed fifth at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games with David Klemperer where the Germans were eliminated by eventual gold medal winners Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers of the United States. “Finn could keep nothing down and was constantly vomiting. We just could not compete that day as we were both sick.”
With a guaranteed fourth, Dittelbach and Koreng have bounced back from a disappointing performance in the 2014 FIVB World Tour opener in China where the Germans dropped all three of their pool play matches in Fuzhou to place 25th.
“We almost decided not to come to Puerto Vallarta after playing poorly in Fuzhou,” said Koreng. “We are now very happy with our decision to travel here for our first visit to Mexico. Everything has been great and hopefully, we can end out trip on a high note. It will be tough as the Latvians were the top-ranked team in the world last season. They have been playing great this season with two semi-final appearances in the first two FIVB events this year. “