Koszalin hosts World Grand Prix Group 2 Finals
The winners of the Group 2 Finals will progress to the Group 1 Finals scheduled from August 20-24 in Tokyo, where they will take on hosts Japan and the top four teams from elite Group 1.
The city of Koszalin, which is 12km south of the shores of the Baltic Sea, is playing host to an international volleyball competition for the second time in just a few weeks. On July 10-11, Poland ended their duties in the preliminaries of the 2014 CEV Volleyball European League with two matches against Spain in Koszalin, dropping only one set to cement their third place in the final competition ranking. The local heroines will hope to build on that success for the upcoming campaign. As they did not qualify for the Final Round of the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014, this is also their last chance this season to give their home crowd something to cheer about.
The semifinal match starring Poland and the “Yellow Tigers” will prolong a rivalry got started last January as Belgium stormed to a 3-0 victory in Lodz to make the final round of the FIVB World Championship for the first time since 1978. Belgium are making their first appearance this year in the World Grand Prix, following the silver medal they won in the 2013 edition of the CEV Volleyball European League. Anchored by their superstar Lise Van Hecke, the team headed by coach Gert Vande Broek has attracted a lot of attention from fans and media alike. Interest grew rapidly after their their historic bronze medal at last year’s European Championship in Berlin.
Poland and Belgium have already played each other twice in this year’s World Grand Prix, with Poland routing Belgium in three sets in Lima, Peru. Last weekend, however, the “Yellow Tigers” cruised to a 3-0 victory in Doetinchem, Netherlands, in the last round preceding the Final Four.
The players in the red-and-white jerseys will rely on the help of their home crowd to bounce back from that defeat, hoping that fans will flock to the sports hall in Koszaline, as they did for Poland's European League matches against Spain.
Among the four teams set to compete in Koszalin, the Netherlands are by far the most successful in the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix, with a gold medal from the 2007 edition on their resume. With the only exception being opposite Manon Flier, the roster of the team has changed almost completely since those glory days in Ningbo, China, but the “Oranjes” delivered a very strong performance in the Intercontinental Round losing only one match on their way to the finals. That defeat happened in the second fixture with their upcoming opponents, Puerto Rico. After cruising to a 3-0 away victory in Carolina, the Netherlands lost control of a 2-0 lead and eventually lost at the tie-break last weekend in Doetinchem. The Dutch will look for immediate revenge in Koszalin, with a possible participation in the Group 1 Finals at stake.
The eventual winners of the final match scheduled for Saturday night at 20.15 local time will book their tickets to Japan where the Arisake Coliseum in Tokyo is set to host the final stage of this year’s World Grand Prix from August 20-24.