11On Saturday night Kristyna Kolocova and Michala Kvapilova of the Czech Republic surprisingly triumphed in the women’s gold medal match of the CEV Satellite in Vaduz after upsetting the top-seeded team of the tournament, Rio-bound Sophie van Gestel and Jantine van der Vlist of the Netherlands (23-21, 21-13). As many as 2,500 fans came together on the next-to-last day of the CEV Satellite that will come to an end on Sunday with the men’s semis and medal matches. Top-seeded Thomas Kunert/Christoph Dressler of Austria and Belgium’s Dries Koekelkoren/Tom van Walle have already secured a spot among the top four of the competition.
The third round of the men’s competition provided the audience with two close, exciting matches with the aforementioned teams from Austria and Belgium eventually having the upper hand. On Sunday morning third-seeded Nico Beeler/Alexei Strasser will take on their countrymen Adrian Heidrich/Gabriel Kissling to claim a semi-final spot for Switzerland before a Polish derby between Michal Kadziola/Kacper Kujawiak and Maciej Kosiak/Maciej Rudol follows next.
Oranjes and Czech girls through to gold medal match
Top-seeded van Gestel/van der Vlist had progressed to the semis with three straight 2-0 wins. In the semi-finals the Rio-bound Dutchwomen played second-seeded Nina Betschart and Tanja Hüberli of Switzerland. Though they started the first set at a slow pace, the Swiss showed their skills to stand a chance of winning it – through to the end. They came from behind in the opening set by means of good serving contributed by Betschart but ended up losing it 24-22 in the end. The second set was far more one-sided with van Gestel and van der Vlist securing their spot in the gold medal match after cruising to a commanding 21-11 win.
In the second semi-final, Kolocova and Kvapilova played Germany’s Lisa Arnholdt and Anni Schumacher. Schumacher had won bronze in the 2013 edition of the Vaduz Satellite with former partner Jana Köhler whilst Arnholdt is a silver medal winner from the 2014 FIVB U19 World Championships. The match was a close one but Kolocova shone with her defence skills and the Czechs eventually recorded a 21-17, 21-18 victory.
Betschart/Hüberli settle for bronze
Betschart/Hüberli started the bronze medal match at a very fast pace and it took only 15 minutes for them to pocket the opening set by a massive 21-9 which was sealed with an ace recorded by Betschart. Schumacher and Arnholdt had to take an early time-out in the second set when trailing 0-3. After that, the match was a lot closer but the Germans were not able to close in and Betschart/Hüberli celebrated their victory (21-17) and with it their second medal from the European Tour this year after winning gold in Baden in early June.
“We were pretty tired but we wanted to give everything once more, especially after yesterday we were able to fight back through the losers’ bracket to make it to the semis,” the Swiss players said. “Our block and defence worked pretty well and we were able to read Arnholdt’s game pretty well too, so this paved the way to our success. The fact that we had a good start in both sets definitely helped us a lot.”
Czechs cause sensation in ‘grand finale’
The early stages of the final match provided a close race with van Gestel/van der Vlist being seriously challenged for the first time since the start of the tournament. Kolocova and Kvapilova asked for a time-out by the score of 17-18 and the Dutch team did the same after the Czechs had edged ahead at 22-21. It did not work, as Kolocova’s serve on van Gestel eventually finished it off 23-21 for the Czechs.
Taking momentum from the opening set, the Czechs started confidently in the second frame and their opponents were forced to stop the game when trailing 2-4. Kolocova served well yet again to stretch the Czech lead to 5-2. It was too early to celebrate as the Dutchwomen rallied back to level the score at 6-all but van der Vlist kind of blanked out after that and the Czechs cruised to a massive 13-6 lead by scoring seven straight points. This was too much to make up for even for the experienced van Gestel/van der Vlist and Kolocova/Kvapilova secured their first international title after winning the second set 21-13.
The Czech gold medallists commented: “Initially we wanted to rely on our defence, but we soon had to realise that it was not working the way we hoped. We took more risks with our serve and this eventually turned into the right recipe for success, because we scored a lot of aces.”
Van Gestel and van der Vlist looked obviously disappointed, and yet remained positive about their participation in the Rio 2016 Olympics: “We are very disappointed because we wanted to win this tournament. However, it was an important experience for us and a good way to prepare for the Olympics,” they said.
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