Home heroes carry Bulgaria’s hopes in Kardzhali
Winners and runners-up will progress to the third round scheduled next year. Teams missing out on places one and two will get another chance to qualify for a spot in the beach volleyball tournament of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro when the second round events take place later this summer.
Teams from Albania, Bulgaria, Finland, and Serbia will be in action on Saturday and Sunday.
"We expect a weekend packed with emotions for everyone who is fond of this sport," said Milko Bagdasarov, who has overseen the preparations of the home teams as the national federation's head of beach volleyball. "The city of Kardzhali will be the stage for some close battles and a series of exciting matches. We have set up a facility specifically conceived for beach volleyball which meets all standards set by CEV and has a capacity of 500 seats," he added.
In the men’s competition, the hopes of the host country will be carried by four players who are all natives of Kardzhali. Konstantin Mitev and Nikolay Kolev, winners of Bulgaria’s National Tour last year as well as of the first two stops already played this season, are expected to provide the local crowd with something to cheer about. "We will try to play our best in order to win this tournament, knowing that strong rivals will be standing on the other side of the net," Nikolay Kolev said. "We hope that we will be able to exploit the home advantage. We also expect some loud support from our fans and friends throughout the weekend."
Bulgaria’s second pair, Kiril Hadzhiev and Delcho Raev (pictured), also hails from the city of Kardzhali. "This is the first time that our home town is hosting a competition of this calibre. At the end of the weekend, we would like to celebrate our victory," said the runners-up of Bulgaria’s 2013 national circuit.
As home star Diana Malinova is out due to injury in the women’s competition, Bulgaria will rely on the likes of Svetla Angelova/Asya Dinova and Rusena Slancheva/Irena Mishonova. "We stand a fair chance in our matches with the teams from Serbia, whereas Finland will be a hard nut to crack," admitted Slancheva. "However, we will be fighting to the end to claim one of the top spots of the standings."
The competition will officially kick off on Friday night with the technical meeting taking place at the Arpezos sports centre in Kardzhali.