MIRAD UNIPO triumph in the men’s competition; VKP Bratislava victorious on the women’s side
MIRAD UNIPO Presov claimed the men’s 2023 Slovakia Cup trophy after a spectacular comeback in Sunday’s final to crown a two-day celebration of volleyball over the weekend in Poprad which also saw VKP Bratislava triumph in the women’s final.
MIRAD suffered in the first two sets of the final against defending cup holders Rieker UJS Komarno, losing by a wide margin. But despite not making any changes to the starting line-up, the squad from Presov battled their way back to celebrate a 3-2 (13-25, 17-25, 25-19, 32-20, 15-5) victory. It was the fifth national cup in the club’s history, after 2005, 2016, 2017 and 2021. MIRAD were also two-time national champions of Slovakia.
Outside hitter Lukas Smolej led Presov’s scorers with 17 points, including four kill blocks. His cross-court teammate Michal Scerba added another 16 to claim the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, while 18-year-old opposite Erik Gulak also reached double digits with 11 points to his name. Rieker’s outside Marek Gergely delivered the match high of 21 points, including two aces and a block. A pivotal moment was when Rieker’s experienced setter Maros Kasperkevic suffered an injury during the third set forcing him off the court for the rest of the match.
“I am very emotional!” exclaimed MIRAD’s captain and MVP of the final Michal Scerba. “I am happy to win. I'm sorry about Maros Kasperkevic's injury, but maybe it just jump-started us. In the fourth set, we thought that Komarno would overcome us, but we came back. We tactically went after Marek Gergely with our serves to make his position in attack more difficult.”
MIRAD’s road to the final was just as difficult. They finished second in their quarterfinal pool after a five-set victory over TJ Slavia Svidnik and a straight-set loss to TJ Spartak Myjava in December. In Saturday’s semifinal they claimed a hard-fought 3-2 (25-22, 22-25, 25-13, 23-25, 15-11) win over VKP Bratislava, while Rieker defeated Spartak in four sets, 3-1 (25-13, 26-28, 25-20, 25-18).
VKP Bratislava's Marta Fartelova in attack during the women’s Slovakia Cup 2023 final PHOTO | Jan Sukup
The women’s team of VKP Bratislava hammered out a 3-0 (25-17, 25-17, 25-18) shutout of their city rivals Slavia EU Bratislava to claim their first-ever trophy in any national competition.
20-year-old middle blocker Ema Smieskova put away four kill blocks and two aces towards the match high of 13 points. Her teammate on the outside, Marta Fartelova, contributed another 12, while the MVP nomination went to Argentinean libero María Pelozo, who registered 71% perfect reception. Slavia’s best scorers, 18-year-old outside Alexandra Fricova and Ukrainian opposite Darja Doluda, also finished with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
“I feel fantastic! We fought the match from the first to the last ball,” said VKP head coach Pavel Bernath. “We bet on simple tactics and high emotions. We based the game on blocking and serving and that worked out perfectly for us. Such a match is not played every weekend, so when I encouraged the players to go into the match with emotions, I could not remain cold-blooded myself.”
In November’s home-and-away quarterfinals, VKP overcame Volley project UKF Nitra with two four-set victories. Another four sets were needed in Saturday’s semifinal to defeat Nove Mesto nad Vehom by 3-1 (20-25, 25-21, 25-11, 25-20). In the other semifinal, Slavia produced a 3-0 (25-23, 25-15, 25-23) sweep of Hit UCM Trnava.