Two strenuous months full of games for the European Cup tournaments, the German Pokal and the domestic league got some of the Bundesliga teams into a tangle. And yet, with the first days of February already on the calendar, all German representatives put an end to their respective European campaigns.
Berlin Recycling Volleys has been in the headlines ever since they converted their championship point in “Generali Arena” last year. In our previous Bundesliga update we already pointed out the balance this team possesses. It came as no surprise that they continued their league domination throughout the new season. Moreover, the inconclusive so far season of both arch rivals Generali Unterhaching and VfB Friedrichshafen foreordained a single Champions League Play Off 12 German participation for the “mannschaft” coached by Mark Lebedew.
This weekend produced the first upset for the champions. A winning streak of 17 victories in the Bundesliga was suspended in Buhl, where the local TV Ingersoll Buhl finally started to show the potential of its squad after the promising summer signings. A 3-2 (18-25, 19-25, 25-19, 25-22, 15-10) win for the home side saw the pleasant surprise of the last season reach the current 4th position in the table after a disastrous start of the season. Ranked 8th at the end of November, Ingersoll Buhl, led by the inspirational Australian international Adam White, won 8 of 10 recent games and deservedly appeared in top 4.
There will not be too much disappointment for Berlin Recycling Volleys as they are surely going to top the standings of the regular season with only two games remaining. Practically, they keep alive all their chances to make it to another final. Besides, the defeat in Buhl, which came after the champions dropped a two-set advantage, is a result of the long series of games they had to play recently. Remarkable were both meetings with the reigning European champions Zenit Kazan. I doubt there was a neutral volleyball fan who would not want to see the Germans put the tie into a Golden Set decider. Two devastating tie-break wins sealed the next round ticket for the Russians, while Berlin met the sympathies of many spectators with their fighting spirit and manifested that they truly belong to the European volleyball elite.
Both other main title contenders VfB Friedrichshafen and Generali Unterhaching take turns to make mistakes and thus strengthen the leadership of the metropolitan team. A match between these two sides next weekend at the Bodensee will be of huge importance to grant the second position in the table and will symbolically mark the transition to the play-off phase.
Stelian Moculescu had a lot of things to contemplate on this year. Of a team that was once a nightmare to play against, VfB is now having difficulties even getting through the Champions League group stage. The 2007 European Club champions were on the verge of finishing at the bottom of Pool A, but still won a point more than Hypo Tirol Innsbruck. An early quarterfinal elimination in Dueren against evivo (0-3) for the Cup, followed by a shocking defeat in Mitteldeutschland (0-3) for the league in addition to the injury of the star opposite Ventzislav Simeonov digged the pit in front of the Romanian-born coach even deeper. The Bulgarian receiver Valentin Bratoev has arrived in Friedrichshafen lately to act as a joker in the next months, but he might be of no use unless his health problems are resolved until the end of the month.
A bit more optimistic is the situation in Bayern. Unterhaching suffer from mainly psychological burden as the team often seems to underperform. A stunning home defeat against ACH Ljubljana left the Bavarians outside Europe’s most prestigious competition. Haching was close to making a sensation against Andreoli Latina for the CEV Cup after winning in three sets away, but failed in the Golden Set. The journey back to Germany must have exhausted the players of Mihai Paduretu as last weekend the modest TV Rottenburg caught their hosts napping and won in four (26-28, 23-25, 25-14, 29-31). Despite some occasional injuries, Generali Unterhaching has the widest selection of players probably in the whole league. Their most recent signing – the Slovenian international middle-blocker Matevz Kamnik, will additionally offer some more diversity at the net. However, on the brink of an eventual semifinal duel with Moculescu’s Friedrichshafen, Haching better be ready emotionally and physically.
Having appeared in last year’s semifinal play-off against Unterhaching, SC Moerser earned the right to participate in the CEV Challenge Cup. The current Polish league surprising leader Delecta Bydgoszcz, comprising of players like Stephane Antiga, Dawid Konarski, Marcin Wika and Michal Masny, was too strong for the small German club though. The Poles won both matches in the 8th-final round. However, we are far away from stating that SC Moerser has been having a bad season. On the contrary, they have one of the most interesting rosters in the Bundesliga and this resulted in their Pokal final qualification. On 3rd March they will have the opportunity to face familiar faces – Generali Unterhaching. 4th in November, SC Moerser dropped in the last two months to the unenviable 7th position, so a Pokal final in Halle might pretty much highlight the 2012-2013 campaign for the Moers underdogs.
1 – Berlin Recycling Volleys, 18 games, 34-2 points
2 – Generali Unterhaching, 17, 28-6
3 – VfB Friedrichshafen, 16, 24-8
4 – TV Ingersoll Buhl, 17, 20-14
5 – evivo Dueren, 17, 18-16
6 – CV Mitteldeutschland, 18, 18-18
7 – Moerser SC, 16, 14-18
8 – TV Rottenburg, 16, 14-18
9 – Netzhoppers KW-Bestensee, 16, 10-22
10- VC Dresden, 17, 4-30
11- VCO Berlin, 20, 0-40