2017 Review: Slovenia and Estonia shine in World League Groups 2 and 3
Slovenia were victorious in 2017 World League Group 2
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Slovenian coach Slobodan Kovac was delighted: “We really played high-quality volleyball. Working on this World League campaign, I have to emphasise the importance of my players' motivation. I want to congratulate my players on doing a tremendous job in maintaining their level after playing on four continents during this competition.”
Klemen Cebulj was the top scorer with 16 points for Slovenia in the final. Mitja Gasparini finished with 15 points, including 12 spikes; even setter Dejan Vincic got onto the scoring act with three aces, three attacks and two blocks.
Slovenia also had three players amongst the top ten scorers in the group. Outside hitter and captain Tine Urnaut was fourth with 152 points, opposite Gasparini was seventh with 141, and the other outside hitter Cebulj was ninth with 132 points to his name. The top scorer in Group 2 was Wouter Ter Maat of the Netherlands with 176 points from 11 matches, holding off the challenge of Australia's Paul Carroll who finished the competition on 173 points.
Australia, whose dreams of winning the title were shattered by a 3-2 semifinal defeat against Japan, won the third/fourth place play-off 3-0 against the Netherlands.
Results - Group 2
Best Players - Group 2
In Group 3, Germany were the favourites going into the competition. But the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship bronze medallists, with Andrea Giani at the helm, had to be content with third place in the end.
Instead, it was Estonia who claimed the title.
The Estonians built a wall at the net, which helped to fend off their opponents' attacks. Two Estonians topped the list of best blockers: Ardo Kreek was top dog across all 36 teams in the competition with an 0.83 average by set, while Andri Aganits was second in the list. The top scorer in Group 3 was Spain’s Andres Villena with 124 points. Even this was not enough to prevent a 0-3 defeat to Estonia in the final, however. Ardo Kreek was the star man with five stuff blocks and a total of 14 points.
“Our journey in this group started many years ago, with our captain Kert Toobal's generation. Many other guys also helped to lay the foundations of this new history of volleyball in Estonia. I took on this team together with my staff three years ago, we’re going step by step and I have to say it’s a gift for all of us to be part of this Estonian family. We never feel alone. I want to tell them this result is for all of them,” said Estonia coach Gheorghe Cretu. Estonia captain Kert Toobal added: “Our teamwork was the key. This is a big day for Estonian volleyball.”
Group winners Estonia did not make it through their debut in the FIVB World League unscathed, however. In the opening tournament, they were beaten 3-1 by Tunisia. The Tunisians, however, missed out on qualifying for the final four, which says something about the quality of the twelve teams in the group.
The Austrians also had a good tournament. Also rookies in the competition, they claimed four wins and lost twice, finishing fourth in the Preliminary Round and only narrowly missing out on the Finals.
"If anybody had said that we would be fighting for the Final Four on the last day, we would have been very satisfied. The FIVB World League was a great experience for us,” said Austrian coach Michael Warm after their Preliminary Round exit was sealed by a 3-0 defeat to Spain.
Spain went on to end the hopes of Germany with a 3-0 win, before losing to underdogs Estonia in the grand finale. Germany consoled themselves with a 3-0 win in the third-place playoff against hosts Mexico.
Results - Group 3
Best Players - Group 3
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