ACH Volley Ljubljana victorious against Mladost Zagreb

Mladen Kašić in Rok Satler

In the preliminary match of the 10th round of the Central European Volleyball League MEVZA, two old friends of the volleyball courts met for the first time in the season, namely the home team ACH Volley Ljubljana and the team HAOK Mladost from Zagreb. After losing the opening set, the 11-time Central European champions rallied back and deservedly won their 12th consecutive match of the season.

Ljubljana - Tivoli Sports Hall, 55 spectators, referees: Ovuka, Kuzmanovic (both Bosnia and Herzegovina).

ACH Volley Ljubljana : HAOK Mladost Zagreb 3:1 (-24, 19, 18, 16)

ACH Volley Ljubljana: Peruničić, Pernuš, Šket 1, Rutar, Mašulović 13, Todorović 2, Okroglič, Kovačič (L), Gjorgiev 17, Pokeršnik 13, Videčnik 9, Kök 9. Coach: Mladen Kašić.

HAOK Mladost Zagreb: Višić, Repek (L), Nikačević 6, Bakonji 1, Silva Franca 17, Jakovac, Vasko, Buša 15, Gajić 3, Vlašić, Smiljanic (L), Zeljković 10, Cvanciger.  Coach: Radovan Gačić.

The start of the match was even, as neither team managed to gain a significant advantage. Nevertheless, the guests from Zagreb, with their fighting approach, made it clear to the Ljubljana team that they had nothing to lose in Ljubljana today. With good reception and the moody spikers Silva Franca and Buša, Mladost's players dictated the rhythm of the game until the middle of the first set, when the Orange Dragons woke up, played better, and erased the advantage and went into a two-point lead (16:14). This triggered a reaction on the Zagreb bench after a one-minute timeout by coach Gačić. With the help of the increasingly moody Silva Franco, Mladost's volleyball players managed to capture the tiebreaker (19:19) and secure two final balls in the end of the first set (22:24). The Ljubljana team managed to defend them, but not the third, and the set ended in favour of the guests from Zagreb (24:26).

As if the lost set had woken the Orange Dragons up and made them a bit angry, the home team showed it with a fierce start to the second set and immediately built up a four-point lead (7:3). A minute break by the visiting coach Gačić gave the Mladost volleyball players a break and they reduced the deficit (7:5). After a block by Kök, who replaced the now unavailable Šket in the second set, the Orange Dragons regained the lead by four (10:6). They maintained their advantage in the following period, when they pressed through the initial hit (Kök, Gjorgiev), making it difficult for their opponents to receive and, consequently, to finish their attacks (14:10; 16:12). The multiple Slovenian champions stopped all the Zagreb attacks and maintained their advantage with an excellent block until the end of the set. In a calm endgame, they tied the set at 1:1 (25:19) after a successful finish by the increasingly playful Gjorgiev.

The Orange Dragons entered the third set better than their rivals (5:3) and led 7:3 after a series of successful initial shots by the awakened captain Pokeršnik. In attack, as in the second set, they completely stopped the opponent's most dangerous spiker, Silva Franca. The Orange Dragons dominated the rest of the set, dominating the court with their excellent block play and their attacking finishes. The Ljubljana attack was not stopped even by a minute break at the request of the guests. The set ended with an attractive attack by Videčnik in favour of ACH Volley Ljubljana (25:18).

In the fourth set, the 11-time Central European champions continued to dominate the block (6:3). The immediate one-minute break by coach Gačič did not help, as the Orange Dragons continued their killer rhythm and after two aces by Pokeršnik, they were already ahead 8:3. As if the guests from Zagreb had already accepted that they would leave Ljubljana with their heads down, we continued to watch the growing dominance of the volleyball players in orange jerseys (16:11). The level of play also dropped compared to the previous sets and more and more own mistakes crept into the game of both teams. Kök cleared the doubts about the winner with a long series of successful initial shots (22:13). The match ended in favour of the Orange Dragons after a mistake by the guests on the opening serve (25:16).

Statement of ACH Volley Ljubljana coach Mladen Kašić: "In the opening set we didn't press enough on the opening shot, and the block play wasn't up to par either. When we improved these two elements in the following period, we turned the game around and deservedly won the next three points."