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Second edition of CEV Continental Cup to get underway this weekend in Slovenia

The players of Slovenia's national team for the first round of the 2014/2016 CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup attending a press conference in Ljubljana ahead of the upcoming tournament in Portoroz

Portoroz, Slovenia, June 12, 2014 - The CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup is returning to Slovenia after the small city of Zrece hosted a Sub-Zonal event four years ago.

The first round tournament coming up this weekend in Portoroz marks the start of the second edition of the CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup whereby teams will have an extra opportunity to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The home teams of Slovenia will be playing pairs from Belgium, Northern Ireland, Norway, and Scotland.

A press conference was organised in Ljubljana shortly before the last mini training camp of the home teams. The players from the host country all agreed that Norway is the clear-cut favourite of the tournament and Belgium is most likely to be Slovenia’s closest competitor for the second spot available to move on straight to the third stage of the Continental Cup coming up next year. All other teams will continue their quest for that coveted ticket to the Olympics via the second round scheduled for August/September 2014.

Slovenia does not have much information on the players that will represent Northern Ireland and Scotland, who are both making their debut in the Continental Cup. The only exception is Scotland’s Lynne Beattie, a 2012 Olympian for Team GB who played in Slovenia for Calcit Kamnik and is therefore well-known in that country.

The Secretary General of the Slovenian Volleyball Federation, Gregor Humerca, is looking forward to the start of the tournament in Portoroz: “We are honoured with hosting the CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup again here in Slovenia. These events are of great importance for small countries like ours, especially for the promotion of this sport among the youth. We are constantly trying to put Beach Volleyball on Slovenia’s sports map. Volleyball already made its breakthrough over the past years and now we all hope that the same will happen for beach volleyball as well.”

Andrej Tot and Tomislav Smuc will lead the Slovenian teams in Portoroz. They both have been involved in beach volleyball for quite some time but this will be their first appearance as head coaches of the national team. “Our players have been working hard, they are playing good and we agreed that they wouldn’t change anything special to their ordinary training regime. We are here mostly to support them and work on tactics, and of course we hope they can make the third round of the competition,” Smuc said.

Nejc Zemljak, a 2005 U19 world champion, will miss his former partner Tine Urnaut in Portoroz, but is happy to join forces with Jernej Potocnik: “I am happy with the opportunity to represent Slovenia on the international stage,” he said. “We won our national qualifiers which were very tight from the first up to the last point. Though we hadn’t played together since 2010, we did not have any problem to find the right understanding and chemistry. As Tomislav said, our goal is to progress directly to the third round. We will give our best to achieve this goal. We first have to edge the teams from Belgium and then we will see what happens next.”

One of the players representing Belgium, Aljosa Urnaut, has a special connection with Slovenia, since his grandfather Adolf, father Andrej and uncle Tine are all volleyball players.

Tine Urnaut is the current captain of Slovenia men’s national team. Slovenia’s best beach volleyball players in recent times, i.e. siblings Simona and Erika Fabjan as well as Andreja Vodeb have all retired from competitive sport.

Tamara Borko has taken a year off, and so Sara Sakovic and Ana Skarlovnik have teamed up with new partners, namely Kaja Turk and Jelena Pesic who is back on sand after having two children. “I was so happy when Ana asked me to join her,” Pesic said. “Though we did not have much time to train and practice together, we just won our national qualifying event for the Continental Cup thereby showing that we have taken the right step. Personally I do not know much about the other teams but I am confident that we can make it to the 3rd round.”

The competition in Portoroz will start on Saturday morning at 8:45 am with the first round of matches.

Norway is set to line up a bunch of very experienced players, including Iver Andreas Horrem/Geir Eithun and Janne Kongshavn/Victoria Faye Kjølberg.


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