ACH Volley Ljubljana on the wings of Gjorgiev wins 12th Mevza League title
In the grand final of the Central European Mevza League in Pliberk, we watched ACH Volley Ljubljana and HAOK Mladosti from Zagreb. In an interesting match, as befits a final, after four sets, the 12th Mevza League title was won by ACH Volley Ljubljana, who remain on the throne for the fourth year in a row. The man of the decision was 33-year-old Nikola Gjorgiev.
Pliberk - Jufa Arena, spectators: 350, referees: Schimpl, Juraček (both Slovakia).
ACH Volley Ljubljana : HAOK Mladost Zagreb 3 : 1 (14, -20, 22, 14)
ACH Volley Ljubljana: Pernuš, Šket 8, Rutar, Mašulović 12, Todorović 5, Peruničić, Okroglič, Kovačič (L), Gjorgiev 25, Pokeršnik 9, Videčnik 5, Kök. Coach: Mladen Kašić.
HAOK Mladost Zagreb: Višić 4, Repek (L), Nikačević 9, Bakonji, Silva Franca 5, Jakovac 1, Vasko, Buša 16, Gajić 8, Vlasić, Smiljanic (L), Zeljković 9, Cvanciger. Coach: Radovan Gačić.
The match was better opened by Mladost's volleyball players, who led 4:1 on the wings of Zeljković, but Mašulović with an outstanding attack levelled the score on the fourth point and Pokeršnik put the Ljubljanaers in the lead. After a mistake by Buša on the offensive end, Zagreb's strategist Gačić stepped in after the first break to make the score 8:5, but that did not stop the Ljubljana team from going on a run and they were already up by five points (10:5) after a smart move by Šket on the offensive end. HAOK Mladosti volleyball players made too many unforced errors, which ACH Volley players took advantage of and by the middle of the set they had an unassailable 11-point advantage (16:5). Todorović, first with a great block and then with an ace, secured the Dragons' 20th point, while Videčnik, through the first tempo, closed the set in favour of the Ljubljana players on 14 points.
In the second set, the Mladost volleyball team had the initial initiative and led 4:2. The current league champions Mevza erased the deficit on the fourth point, and the teams continued in an even rhythm until the middle of the set, when HAOK Mladost volleyball players escaped by three points (13:16) on the serve of Zeljkovic and two consecutive attacks of the increasingly determined Nikačević. With Zagreb leading by four (14:18), coach Kašić called a timeout. At first, ACH Volley Ljubljana came close to two points (17:19), but then they made too many mistakes and the Zagreb players took the initiative again and after a great attack by Nikačević through the first tempo, they tied the score in the set (20:25).
The opening of the third set belonged to the Slovenian representative in the grand final. First, Gjorgiev scored an ace to take a 4:2 lead, and Šket scored a block to take a three-point advantage (9:6). After a half-minute break, the Dragons had the lead at Gačić's request, but Mašulović increased the advantage to four points with a block (13:9) and Mladost's coach was forced to take a break again. This time, the break was beneficial for Zagreb's volleyball players, as they closed the gap to three points after trailing by five. The Orange Dragons, with Gjorgiev in the wings, entered the playoffs with a four-point lead (22:18). The Mladost volleyball players were relentless and came within two points (23:21), but it was not enough to turn the match around. An unstoppable opposite r in the ranks of ACH Volley decided the third set with an attack (25:22).
The 33-year-old Macedonian continued his style at the beginning of the fourth set, where he scored two successful attacks and an ace to take a three-point lead (5:2). The HAOK Mladost coach reacted with a half-minute break, but it did not stop the Dragons' onslaught. Mašulović's ace gave the team a four-point lead (9:5), which was followed by a longer timeout by the scorekeeper, which was more than welcome for Mladost's players, who tied the score on the ninth point and took the lead (9:10). At the Jufa Hall, most of those present thought that at 14:14 we would see a tense continuation. But this was not the case - the first name of the match, Nikola Gjorgiev, had other plans. With a remarkable series of ten consecutive serves, he staged a real simultaneity and set his teammates on their way to another trophy in what has been an outstanding season for the Orange Dragons. The set ended on the 14th point after an attacking error by Cvanciger and ACH Volley Ljubljana celebrated their 42nd consecutive victory and their second win.
Statement of ACH Volley Ljubljana coach Mladen Kašić: "We are very satisfied with the final result, although the game was not at the level we wanted. We played very well in the first set, but then Mladost showed very good resistance. We have to be aware that this is the 42nd match of the season, 5 matches in a week, so congratulations to the players for their performance. Tomorrow they have a rest day, which is a reward to prepare as well as possible for Thursday's showdown with Narbonne Volley in the Challenge Cup, where we would like to go a little further than we have managed so far."
ACH Volley Ljubljana player Nikola Gjorgiev: "We knew that every final is difficult. We were aware of our role as favourites, as we were undefeated in the regular part of the championship. The Mladost team came to the final tournament rested and without pressure to play as well as they can. So, it was even more difficult today against an unloaded opponent, but once again our team spirit and the mentality we have in the team came to the fore. I am very proud to be the captain of a great team, first and foremost people and great players. I congratulate the entire ACH Volley Ljubljana players' club organisation, down to the staff, media and management. I hope this is not our last laurel of this season."
Statement of ACH Volley Ljubljana player Matic Videčnik: "We are very happy to win our second trophy of the season. We are still an undefeated team with 42 consecutive wins. It was a busy week, as we had five games in a week. We have a day off to celebrate a bit and then we have a very important game against Narbonne Volley on Thursday. We invite all fans to come and support us in Hala Tivoli."