VfB Edge Haching
Sport Arena Unterhaching, January 26 – The names weren’t Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund, but for the soldout crowd that gathered in the Haching Arena just south of Munich, the match turned out to be similar to last year’s Bundesliga and Champions League title races.
VfB Friedrichshafen and Generali Haching, the top two teams in the German Volleyball league, squared off in a tilt worthy of a bigger stage. Unfortunately, in the regular season, it may be the last time.
After four tightly played sets, Friedrichshafen were able to win the points in the crucial moments and held off Haching 3-1 (22-25, 28-30, 25-16, 24-26) to stay in first place, while Haching could only blame their unforced errors, and dropping down to third place.
In the first two sets, the action was the same up until the second technical timeouts. Both clubs battled back-and-forth giving an indication of what was to come. In the first set, Friedrichshafen took the lead after 2-2 and built a six-point lead at 18-12. Haching fought to within 22-20, but VfB held on 25-22.
Undaunted, Haching started solid in the second, taking a lead early. But Friedrichshafen didn’t let their guests get comfortable, tied it up at 10-10. From there, the set did not deserve to end. Haching overcame an error down 22-21, when miscommunication between libero Ferdinand Tille and middle blocker Konstantin Shumov let a free ball drop. Instead of a possible tie, Haching were down 23-21.
Haching fought back to make it 24-24, Tille even making up for the earlier error, diving to save a sure point for the away team and it lead to points for his team. The set was tied four more times, but ‘Hafen were able to find the final two points and win 30-28.
The punch-for-punch continued at the start of the third set. At 6-6, Haching found a level that was missing the first two sets – not making errors and solid volleyball. A 6-0 run built a nice 12-6 lead and they led 16-10 at the second technical timeout. Sebastian Schwarz was integral in the defining moments, making a save to keep a rally alive and then scored the winning point, making it 22-14. Haching took the set 25-16.
“We didn’t change anything in our gameplan, we had to keep trying to win every set,” said Schwarz after the team was down 2-0. “We played better in the third set. We started bad in the first set, we couldn’t close it out in the second. Overall VfB were just more consistent throughout the match.”
The pattern returned in the fourth set. Friedrichshafen took the lead, but Haching fought back, hoping to take the match the distance. The match was tied at 22 all, Friedrichshafen then looking to close it out, up 24-22. Amazingly, the home team tied it back up 24-24. But the energy used throughout the match to stay point-for-point finally ran out for Haching, Friedrichshafen again finished strong, winning the set 26-24, and the match.
Ventzislav Simeonov led all players with 19 kills. Schwarz was clearly the player of the game, 23 points, 17 kills, and 2 aces. But it wasn’t enough.
“We play great today but we made some huge stupid errors that they didn’t make, that was the difference,” said Haching head coach Mihai Paduretu. “I am very satisfied with the team, that they got better during the match after a slow start and took the shots from the best team in the league.”
Stelian Moculescu agreed about VfB able to step it up. “We served and blocked better in the deciding moments. And we had some luck as well.”
With the future of Haching up in the air due to their loss of Generali as their major sponsor at the end of the season and no one yet to take over, this may be the last time these two face off in the regular season. If Haching cannot pay for their league license, they will drop down to as low as the fourth division. There are business and sponsorship meetings planned in February as Haching look to find sponsors.
“It’s a shame to lose (the rivalry and atmosphere),” added Moculescu. “Mihai has a great job here the past years, but that’s our business. We’ve lost a lot of teams in the past.”
Until then, here’s hoping Haching can make it deep into the playoffs and face Friedrichshafen in the postseason. And maybe then, more of Germany and Volleyball Nation will take notice.
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