Orange Dragons Celebrate at Tivoli Hall with the Twentieth National Championship Title

ACH Volley Ljubljana

In the third match of the grand final of the Sportklub First Volleyball League, we witnessed the third game in less than seven days between ACH Volley Ljubljana and Calcit Volley at Tivoli Hall in Ljubljana. The reigning Slovenian champions proved to be the superior team on their home court for the third time, rightfully celebrating the milestone twentieth national championship title.

Ljubljana - Tivoli Sports Hall, spectators: 1122, referees: Marko Rožej, Dejan Jovanovič

ACH Volley Ljubljana : Calcit Volley 3 : 2 (28, -24, 20, -22, 12)

ACH Volley Ljubljana: Markovič, Kržič 7, Šket 24, Najdič 2, Marovt 21, Šen, Kovačič (L), Gjorgiev, Sešek, Pokeršnik 29, Videčnik 8, Song. Coach: Matjaž Hafner

Calcit Volley: Planinšič, Vinkovič, Lazar, Klobučar 1, Karadža Pevc (L), Košenina (L), Nikolić 11, Okroglič 12, Mitrašinović, Brunet 30, Oman, Bakonji 3, Dulchev 23, Pavlovič 6. Coach: Mladen Kašič

The home team took the initiative at the start of the third final match at Tivoli Hall, leading by two after an effective attack by Pokeršnik. They maintained the lead until the thirteenth point when the Calcit players managed to tie and take the lead (13:15). Najdič equalized at the twentieth point with an ace, followed by a tense finale in which Calcit regained the lead after an ace by Pavlovič (20:22). The minutes that followed belonged to Jan Pokeršnik, who first ended a rally with a brilliant parallel hit to close the gap to 21:22, then immediately served an ace for a new tie (22:22). This was followed by a timeout requested by Kašič. In the marathon ending of the first set, the Orange Dragons managed to finish off their seventh match point and took a 1:0 lead in sets with an ace by the exceptionally spirited Pokeršnik (30:28).

In the second set, the guests from Kamnik dictated the rhythm of the game until mid-set, leading by three points with successful attacks by Okroglič and Dulchev (7:10). The Dragons managed to keep pace with the Kamnik players throughout the second set and, as in the first, we witnessed a tense finale where the Ljubljana players reached the first match point. Calcit managed a comeback with three consecutive points and tied the sets at 1:1 with two blocks by Brunet (24:26).

The third set started on a high note for ACH Volley Ljubljana, who were undeterred by the narrowly lost second set. Throughout the entire set, they were better in all aspects of the game. Following an outstanding defensive action and a cunning finish by Pokeršnik, the Ljubljana players led 10:5. Pokeršnik's show continued with an ace for 12:6, but Kamnik reduced the deficit to three points (12:15) with a triple block. This did not unsettle the Ljubljana team, who were convincingly better also in the second half of the set and won the set with a service error by Dulchev at the twentieth point (25:20).

Kamnik players started the fourth set better and led most of the time. The guests capitalized on a slight drop in the Dragons' concentration, especially in reception, and maintained a lead of three to four points until the finale. The score in sets was tied after a successful finish by Klobučar in the fourth set at the 22nd point.

In the decisive, fifth set, we saw a great start by the current national champions, leading 4:1. They shone in defense and were forceful in attack finishes. At the side switch, the Dragons led 8:4, and Kamnik quickly closed the gap to -2 (8:6). Marovt with a spectacular finish over the triple block increased the lead to 13:10, and Šket with two consecutive attacks decided the grand finale and earned the title of the most valuable player of the match. The celebration at Tivoli Hall could begin.

Statement from ACH Volley Ljubljana's coach, Matjaž Hafner: "I'm currently at a loss for words,really, it was a battle for every point. Certainly, the best game of the entire final series, Kamnik played a really good match. We held on and ultimately showed heart and rightfully celebrated the national championship title."