The playoff results in the German Bundesliga did not offer many surprises so far. The three main title contenders galloped through the quarterfinal stage without much pressure and all demonstrated an unequivocal champion desire.
Unlike the big three, among which VfB Friedrichshafen and Generali Unterhaching made up to their fans in the quarterfinals for the shaky end of the regular season, SC Moerser and TV Ingersoll Buhl took part in the most dramatic playoff, facing each other. March was very important for the guys of head coach Chang Cheng Liu. Unfortunately, three tie-break defeats in as many decisive games left SC Moerser empty-handed and out of the league semifinals. They first one lost to Unterhaching for the German Cup final in Halle at the beginning of the month (19-25, 25-23, 25-18, 22-25, 10-15) only to precede another missed chance against Buhl in the quarterfinals. Ruben Wolochin led his selection to a heart-breaking win in Moers (23-25, 25-21, 29-27, 21-25, 22-20) in front of 1300 that supervened another five-setter in Buhl a few days earlier to confirm our conviction about Buhl eventually making it to the last four. However, we can’t ignore the good season SC Moerser enjoyed. The Pokal final will most probably give them the right to participate in Europe once more next season.
Berlin Recycling Volleys did not attract our attention too much in the past two months for the pure reason that they did not need to shine to reach the semis. TV Buhl will be a dangerous opponent there, but I doubt Adam White & Co. will have the potential to do something more remarkable outside Buhl, the “Max-Schmelling” sports hall seems way too unhospitable for the small team from south-western Germany. Well, it’s true Wolochin found a way already to beat Mark Lebedew in the league (in Buhl, of course), but I believe that the eventual European Cups participation will be a great achievement overall for the Argentinian coach and his team.
It makes no sense to move the focus somewhere else but on southern Germany in the next weeks. The reason for that is as clear as it could have been in the past years – the great rivalry between Generali Unterhaching and VfB Friedrichshafen, between Mihai Paduretu and Stelian Moculescu goes to a new, relatively unknown and surely unusual level as their sides will fight for one final spot. VfB reminded of their good old days in both quarterfinal clashes with evivo Dueren. Valentin Bratoev has finally recovered to give the additional push his team had been longing for. He is yet to show more in the semis, I can guarantee you. Simeonov will undoubtedly be loaded with most responsibility, but it would be to the weakest position – the setter, to show how ready the Bodensee guys are to appear in the final after a year break.
Unterhaching was the only team from top three to slip a set in the previous playoff round against Rottenburg, but with the Pokal in their hands and the last straigh-set win in Friedrichshafen in mind they seem to be the favourite for the time being, at least on paper. Paduretu has no other objective but the title, which he unluckily missed last year, so you can be sure southern volleyball Germany will be cracking in the next days.
There is a live video transmission for the first semifinal tomorrow evening in Unterhaching. You can watch it on www.dvl-live.tv, the match starts at 19:30 on Wednesday, 3th April.
Pictures: SC Moerser