FIVB MANGAUNG OPEN, Bloemfontein

 

Men’s Gold Medal match: Netherlands v Chile

NETHERLANDS EMERGE AS GOLD MEDALLISTS AT 2014 FIVB MANGAUNG OPEN.

 

With the threat of an imminent down pour the much awaited clash between the Netherlands and dark horses, Chile got off to a brisk start with both teams using a total onslaught strategy to unsettle each other.

Netherlands’ 2.12 metres tall Christiaan Varenhorst and his hard hitting partner, Reinder Nummerdor took the fight to newcomers at this level of competition, Chileans Esteban Grimalt and his cousin, Marco Grimalt. The ensuing battle between Team Netherlands and Team Chile caused great excitement among the spectators. Sadly the exciting encounter was temporarily halted by the referee because of a steady down pour of rain.

The battle on centre court resumed when the players returned after a 25 minute rain delay. Giving very little away both teams went for each others’ jugular. When Varenhorst stopped the Chilean attackers twice in a row it signalled the end of the Chilean attempts to win the set. Reinder Nummerdor and Christiaan Varenhorst fought all the way from a 17-17 score line to win the first set with a 21-18 margin.

The tightly contested 2nd set brought the best out of the players in attack, block and cover play. The score board was kept ticking evenly and the fans joined in the action with ‘cat calls’, whistling and words of encouragement to urge on their favourite teams.

At 10-10 two successive blocks by Marco Grimalt stopped speedy Nummerdor dead in his tracks. Chile grabbed a 12-10 lead. Confusion in receiving service seemed to have upset the Chileans who went on to commit a further unforced error that brought the Netherlands back into contention at 14-14. Esteban, Reinder and Christiaan excited the fans with their trade mark power attacks that demonstrated their attacking prowess. At 18-18 ‘Lady luck’ smiled on the Netherlands as they picked up three points in a row to close proceedings to ascend the winners podium at the 2014 FIVB Mangaung Open.

 

Donovan Nair

FIVB MANGAUANG OPEN

Women’s Final: Czech Republic v Japan

MARTINA BONNEROVA OF CZECH REPUBLIC IN SUPERB FORM IN GOLD MEDAL MATCH

Twenty three year Czech Republic’s ‘wonder-woman’, Martina Bonnerova was too hot to handle in a thrill a minute women’s gold medal match against Japan at the Loch Logan Rose Garden in Mangaung in the Free State Province. Bonnerova and her partner, Barbora Hermannova combined well to post a 21-15; 21-16 score to reach the podium as gold medallists in the final match of the 2014 FIVB World Tour.

While the Czech duo mixed power and deft touches in to open spaces to put quick points on the board their counterparts stuck to a game plan of directing every attack into the far corners of the Czech’s back court making Bonnerova scramble around to keep the ball alive and stay focused on the job at hand.

A change in game plan saw the Czechs emulating their Japanese counterparts by making them work hard to recover the dink and poke shots that were placed away from their reach. Capitalising on their change in strategy Bonnerova and Hermannova combined well to streak ahead with a 15-10 score. With Martina Bonnerova on fire with her quick whipping hand action spikes the Japanese fell behind by a 17-10 margin. Great rallies had the spectators salivating for more of the superb display of attacking volleyball and the endless pursuits to recover balls that were directed into unguarded spaces of the back court. The local fans loved every minute of the action that they were fortunate to witness for the first time in their part of the world.

When Japan’s Sayaka Mizoe picked up three points in a row the Czech duo were given a rude wake up call. A further 2 points brought the Japanese closer to cause an upset victory. When Martina Bonnerova stepped up to take the lion’s share of the attack it brought an end to their opponents’ strategy of causing an upset win. Bonnerova spearheaded the 21-15 score line to end the first set.

Taking a 10-7 lead in the 2nd set the Czech ladies were on course to wrap up proceedings in the shortest possible time. A mixture of powerful attacks and the selective use of well placed dinks the Japanese announced their fight back. A few unforced service errors further dampened the spirits of the Czech team. To boost their waning confidence Martina Bonnerova put in a sparkling attacking performance to put the final out of the reach of their Asian counterparts. The Czech Republic were crowned the 2014 FIVB Mangaung Open champions. At a post match interview Martina and Barbora assured their new found fans that they will be back next year to defend their title at Mangaung.

Donovan Nair

FIVB MANGAUNG OPEN, Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Women’s Bronze medal match: USA V RUSSIA
RUSSIA EDGES OUT USA IN THRILLING BRONZE MEDAL ENCOUNTER
The tournament’s number one seeds from the US, Lane Carico and Kimberly Dicello found themselves in difficulty in the opening minutes of the first set as they faced a rampant Russian attack force spearheaded by Evgenia Ukolova whose penchant for quick fire placement of her spikes troubled the Americans in defence.
It came as no surprise when the Russians posted a 11-6 lead. Had it not been for Lane Carico’s brilliant performance in the back court the score would have been even greater. With Ukolova in scintillating form the Russians won the set with a 21-17 score line.
This time round Lane Carico switched her role from time to time from taking care of matters in the back court to an out and out attacker. Whenever Carico struck the ball there was no return as the American’s arm speed was such that the ball travelled at an enormous speed that left the defence in disarray.

Not to be out done Ukolova and Maria Prokopeva picked up their rhythm and levelled matters at 13-13. Clearly Lane Carico was the crowd favourite as the fans responded with thunderous applause when ever she scored a point. Prokopeva pitched in to add a few points on the board to keep the Americans in check. At 20-20 Lane Carico’s well struck cross court attack earned the Americans a 21-20 lead.

A clever dink by Kimberly Dicello put the hard fought set beyond the reach of the Russians as the US closed with a 22-20 margin to force the match to a deciding 3rd set.
Despite the very warm weather the tie breaking set was a set of great rallies and crowd pleasing attacking and blocking combinations. Once again Lane Carico was at her fluent best as she chased every ball in the back court and fired home her trade mark blistering spikes. With the Americans taking a 11-10 lead Maria Prokopeva signalled for a 5 minute medical time out. After having received medical attention from the FIVB Doctor , Maria Prokopeva returned to the court rejuvenated and in awesome form.
The struggle for supremacy at the net was soon won by Evgenia UIkolova who struck an absolute pile driver to close proceedings with a 15-12 score line and lift the 3rd place silverware.
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MEN’s bronze medal match: FRANCE V GERMANY
FRANCE EMERGE VICTORIOUS IN BRONZE MEDAL ENCOUNTER

After losing the first set by a hard fought 21-16 margin the local fans expected that the Germans would come out with guns blazing and turn the tables on their European neighbours in the second set. The Germans led by the tall and strongly built Sebastian Fuchs made their intentions quite clear that they were out to level matters and win the encounter and reach the podium as a medallist.
The French soon began to score valuable points by playing off Fuchs’huge out stretched hands during the execution of a block. French attacking machine,Youssef Krou added to the Germans misery as his spikes often sped in to the far corners of the back court giving the Germans no chance of recovery. France’s Edouard Rowlandson was superb when ever he was brought in to attack and his back court cover was the best seen at this competition.
As soon the German strong man, Sebastian Fuchs soon began to feel the strains of playing in Mangaung’s hot summer afternoon, the French surged ahead to take a 20-15 lead. When the Germans scored two points in quick succession it became apparent that a come back was on the cards.
At 21-17 a pressure serve from Fuchs floated out of bounds to hand the French the 2014 FIVB Open bronze medal.

FIVB MANGAUNG OPEN, Bloemfontein

Day 4: WOMEN’s SEMI-FINAL MATCHES

The centre court for the 2014 FIVB Mangaung Open came alive with power packed semi-final action in both the women and men’s semi-final clashes that thrilled and entertained the local fans as the world’s best beach volleyball players pulled out all the stops to make it to the podium as medallists and get a lion’s share of the lucrative prize money on offer.
“The women’s semi-final matches were a great advert for the sport,” screamed excited fans as they crowded the players after each match eager to grab the opportunity for a photo session.
The opening semi-final clash of the FIVB Mangaung Open was the women’s encounter between number one seeds from the US, Lane Carico and Kimberly Dicello and their Czech Republic opponents, Martina Bonnerova and Barbora Hermannova. The latter’s on court ‘never say attitude’ was largely responsible for their spirited fight back from being one set down and eventually winning the encounter.
With a 21-17 first set win the Americans were on course to set the court alight with their mixture of power play and deft touches over the blockers’ out stretched hands and into unguarded parts of the back court. Lane Carico was brilliant in the back court making sure that every ball that came of Kimberly Dicello’s block and her opponents’ dinks were recovered and converted into attacks. While Kimberly Dicello took the responsibility of being the main attacker, Carico pitched in with a few well placed attacks that allowed the Americans to surge ahead on points. However when the Czechs stepped up a few gears midway through the set it brought on immediate success as Martina Bonnerova and Barbora Hermannova began to keep the score board ticking. The battle at the net and the occassional scrambling to keep the ball alive excited the crowd who showed their appreciation by applauding every move. With the excitement reaching fever pitch the Czech ladies turned on the magic and took the 2nd set with a hard fought 25-23 score line.
Not even the intense heat could slow down both teams as they latched on to every opportunity to put quick points on the board. The Eastern Europeans’ strength at the net proved to be the decisive factor as they closed the set with a 15-11 margin to book their place in Sunday’s final.
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The second women’s semi-final encounter was between Nishibori Takemi and Sayaka Mizoe of Japan and their Russian opponents, Evgenia Ukolova and Maria Prokopeva. The match followed in the footsteps of the earlier semi-final clash with exciting power play and strong defensive work at the net that thrilled the fans.
The Japanese seemed to enjoy the ‘under dog’ status as it took the media pressure of them and allowed them to focus on the job at hand. The synergy between the Russian of Evgenia Ukolova and Maria Prokopeva was very evident as they jointly put on quick points on the board. A tigerish fight back by the Japanese put the brake on the Russians advancing freely in the set. The opening set could have gone either way had it not been Ukolova’s quick action attacks that yielded crucial points to win the set by a slender 21-19 margin. The ‘do or die’ 2nd set was fought on a knife’s edge as both teams threw caution to the wind and explored every avenue to unsettle each other. With the play between the teams becoming intense the crowd got behind the Japanese and urged them on. Sayaka Mizoe was Japan’s chief destroyer of the Russian defence as she blasted her way every time she latched onto Takemi’s sets. The powerful exchanges between the contenders ended with the Japanese ladies streaking ahead with a 21-18 win to force the match into a tie breaker.
The explosive 3rd set the fans on fire as they joined in by loudly cheering the Japanese. It seemed like a lonely experience for the Russians who fought on regardless of having little support from the local fans. The fans erupted with joy when Sayaka Mizoe slammed home the point to close matters with a heart stopping 16-14 win to reach FIVB Open final for the first time.

Donovan Nair

FIVB MANGAUNG OPEN, Bloemfontein

First Men’s Semi-final match
CHILE OVER POWERS HIGH RIDING GERMANS TO REACH FIVB OPEN FINAL
Germany’s 2.03m tall Sebastian Fuchs used his giant frame at the net to the fullest to keep the Chilean attackers in check to take the opening set with a 21-18 score line. Efforts by Esteban Grimalt and Marco Grimalt to work around Fuchs helped to close the points gap. When Fuchs pounded a series spikes the Germans moved ahead on points and eventually ended the set with a 21-18 margin.
Things went horribly wrong for the Germans as they were forced onto the back foot when Marco Grimalt gained the upper hand at the net while Esteban Grimalt’s penchant for unleashing the quick cross spikes yielded a steady flow of points. The Chileans won the 2nd set by a morale boosting 21-12 win.
In the deciding 3rd set Team Chile raced to a 7-3 lead in double quick time which raised the temperature in the German camp. Once again it was the huge frame of Sebastian Fuchs at the net that broke the rhythm of the Chileans. Refusing to be intimidated Esteban Grimalt challenged Fuchs’ huge frame at the net and posted a few points to get ahead of their opponents. The ensuing battle for supremacy ended in favour of the Chileans who romped home with a 15-11 score line to meet the winner of the Netherlands and France semi final match in the final.
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Second Men’s Semi-final match.
NETHERLANDS OUT GUN FRANCE TO REACH FIVB OPEN FINAL AT MANGAUNG

Well co-ordinated defensive play and the fearless unleashing of power packed attacks put the Netherlands in the driving seat from the first whistle of the opening set of the second semi-final clash against Youssef Krou and Edouard Rowlandson of France. Taking a 11-6 lead came as no surprise as Christiaan Varenhorst, the tallest player (2.12m) at the FIVB Mangaung Open dominated play at the net. Although France’s Youssef Krou was a thorn in the side of Team Netherlands with his quick action down the line and cross court attacking, the latter managed the situation well to close the entertaining set with a 21-15 score line.
It was evident that the local fans gave the French no chance of an upset victory as they turned their attention to Reinder Nummerdor and Christiaan Varenhorst and urged them on to victory. Reinder Nummerdor’s clinical cross court finishing put enormous pressure on the French who at times had no answer especially when Varenhorst joined in the attack and blasted his way past the hapless Krou in the heart of the French defence. Team Netherlands went on to effortlessly post a 21-14 win to meet Team Chile in Sunday’s final.

 

Donovan Nair

2014 FIVB MANGAUNG OPEN, Bloemfontein

Day: 4 The start of the semi-final matches (women and men)
In the women’s category the tournament’s number one seeds, Lane Carico and Kimberly Dicello from the United States won a hard fought encounter against the Italian outfit, Giulia Momoli and Laura Giombini, 21-16; 21-17 to book their place in the semi-finals against the Czech team of Martina Bonnerova and Barbora Hermannova.
Bonnerova and Hermannova were made to fight all the way against Katharina Schutzenhofer and Lena Plesiutschnig of Austria, 21-19; 21-18 to reach the semi-finals.
In the 2nd semi-final encounter Evgenia Ukolova and Maria Prokopeva of Russia will square up against Japan’s top seeds, Nishibori and Sayaka Mizoe. The Japanese progressed to the semi-finals by edging out Vasiliki Arvaniti and Maria Tsiartsiani of Greece whose relentless efforts to stay alive in their quarter clash almost paid off had it not ben for a few unforced errors that cost them the crucial 2nd set (19-21). After having taken the 1st set, 21-18 the Greeks were on course to close proceedings in the 2nd set but fell behind and succumbed to a 19-21 defeat. The deciding 3rd set tipped in the Japanese favour by a 15-8 margin.
Meanwhile Anna Behlen and Katharina Culav of Germany were a tad unlucky to go down to Evgenia Ukolova and Maria Prokopeva of Russia by a heart breaking 19-21; 18-21 score line.

FIVB MANGAUNG OPEN, Bloemfontein

Day: 3 (Men’s match)
TEAM USA DENIES SA MEN’s TEAM A QUARTER FINAL SPOT AT FIVB MANGAUNG OPEN
Arguably Team South Africa’s toughest match at the 2014 FIVB Mangaung Open was their Top 16 clash against Nicholas Lucena and Theodre Brunner from the United States, the tournament’s number two seeds.
Showing no respect for their more fancied American opponents, South Africans, Grant Goldschmidt and Leo Williams went on a total onslaught strategy which yielded a few valuable points. When the Americans stepped up a few gears they went on to level matters at 6-6.
Using his strength at the net the lanky Theodre Brunner kept the SA attackers at bay. By playing the blockers out stretched hands and mixing power hits with the occasional deft touches into open spaces both teams kept the score board ticking evenly.
While Grant Goldschmidt had a measure of success with playing a variety of attacking shots, his lack of control with his power play and trade mark ‘cut-shots’ proved to be too expensive as the US lead by a 17-14 margin.
When Theodre Brunner rose off the sand to execute two consecutive blocks on Williams and Goldschmidt it boosted their chance of an early victory.
Using the support of the local fans to spur them on, Goldschmidt and Williams closed the points gap, (18-16). Robust play by the US unsettled the South Africans as they slid to a 16-20 deficit.
While the local fans waited with bated breath for a miracle to save their team Nicholas Lucena quickly connected with Brunner’s perfect set to register a 21-17 first set win.
The experienced US outfit started the 2nd set determined to out gun the local team and close proceedings in the shortest possible time.
Taking a 15-5 lead put the Americans in the driving seat to win the set and match in grand style. Meanwhile,Nicholas Lucena chose to tire the South Africans by repeatedly playing the dink shot in the far corners of their court with the hope that desperate attempts would be made to recover each ball. At 19-9 the bells began to toll the demise of Team SA as they seemed to have no answer for their more experienced opponents. A blistering spike down the middle by Theodre Brunner ended the set with a 21-10 score line.

Donovan Nair

2014 FIVB MANGAUNG OPEN

Day one (Main draw fixtures)
SA PAIRING UNLUCKY TO GO DOWN TO THE AUSTRIANS

 
The opening match of the men’s main draw was the contest between the South African pairing of Colin Pocock and Casey Augoustides and their Austrian opponents, Peter Eglseer and Daniel Mullner.
Not even loud cheering from the South African fans could help Pocock and Augoustides recover from their 8-16 deficit as Eglseer and the pony tailed Daniel Mullner were all over their South African opponents, giving them little or no room to get out of their clutches. Mixing power with the occasional well placed dink shots the Austrians raced to a 21-12 first set win.
With Colin Pocock drawing on his experience as a former beach volleyball Olympian the South Africans were set to claw their way back in to contention. While the Austrians targeted Casey Augoustides with the hope of containing him at the net, the diminutive Capetonian beat his blocker with his trade mark powerful cross court attacks that gave the SA team a 7-6 lead. A pressure service from Pocock failed to clear the net and tied the scores at 7-7.
When the scores reach 10-10 the experienced Austrian pairing chose the option of concentrating on solid blocking and making the South Africans race around the court to pick up the series of dinks that they directed into open spaces of the court. The resilient South Africans rose to the occasion and fought back by playing off Mullner’s out stretched blocks. Keeping to their game plan of using the soft attack over Colin Pocock’s blocks the Austrians took a 19-18 lead. The speed of Casey Augoustides’s power attack beat Mullner at the net and pounded off the sand and into the stands.
With the scores locked at 19-19 the set could have gone either way had it not been for Michael Murauer quick action cross court spike that had the South Africans stranded. The Austrians nervously edged the score to 20-19. When a ‘cut shot’ from Augoustides floated across the side lines the Austrians heaved a huge sigh of relief. The match ended with a 21-19 win for the Austrians.

Donovan Nair

FIVB MANGAUNG OPEN, Bloemfontein

UP HILL BATTLE FOR SA YOUNGSTERS AT FIVB MANGAUNG OPEN

 

South Africa’s 2016 Olympic Games hopefuls youngsters, Jamine Naidoo and Clint Stemmet found the goings a tad difficult against the experienced Austrian outfit of Michael Murauer and Florian Schnetzer when they clashed in the 2nd match of the opening day’s men’s round robin fixtures.
Playing on the centre court seemed to have presented a few challenges for the South African youngsters who took some time to settle down and overcome initial jitters. It was a costly waste of time as their opponents capitalised on their ‘jittery’ start and went on to post what seemed like an insurmountable 8-4 lead.

Solid blocking by Michael Murauer slowed the South Africans’ attempt to turn the tables on their more fancied opponents. When Jamine Naidoo became a threat to the Austrians they quickly beefed up their defence at the net and quickened the pace of their ‘soft attacks’ that invariably caught Naidoo and Stemmet napping. While Naidoo and Stemmet had a measure of success with the occasional attacks the Austrians went on to take a commanding 19-9 lead when they took the fight to their opponents. The set went in favour of the Austrians 21-12 when Stemmet’s service floated out of bounds.

The commanding 21-12 first set win boosted the Austrians’s confidence as they effortlessly posted a quick fire 12-3 lead. With the prospect of defeat staring them in the face Naidoo and Stemmet threw caution to the wind and won a few valuable points to close the points gap to 18-13.
Unable to pressurise their opponents and cause an upset victory, the South Africans succumbed to a 21-16 defeat when Stemmet’s down the line attack went out of bounds.

Donovan Nair

FIVB MANGAUNG OPEN DAY ONE

SOUTH AFRICA SECURES FIRST WIN AT MANGAUNG OPEN

Latvian duo, Smedins and Dauburs were made to pay dearly for under estimating South Africa’s top seeds, Goldschmidt and Williams by judging them as a ‘mere push-over’ by their loss to the Canadians in an earlier fixture.
When the closely contested opening set was locked at 19-19 it brought the local fans to their feet. Spurred on by their supporters constant cheering the SA lads displayed great determination to unsettle the East Europeans and register their first win at this global event. With the ‘Gods” smiling down on the South Africans Leo Williams’ well timed block on the hard hitting Martins Dauburs brought the SA lads a step closer to taking the set. A follow up block on crest fallen Dauburs sealed the set with a heart stopping 21-19 score line.
Refusing to roll over and play dead in the face of a rampant South African attack, the Latvians stepped up a few gears to take the set by the “ scruff of its neck” and push the score to 13-8.
Goldschmidt’s sparkling reverse set to Williams brought respective nods from their opponents as the latter connected perfectly with the set and pounded the ball on to the sand. When Toms Smedins took charge of his team’s offensive play it spelt doom for the South Africans who were bundled out by a 21-12 margin.
The deciding 3rd set became a thrill for the fans as both teams went for the ‘jugular’ with a total onslaught attacking strategy. The South Africans gained control of the set when they posted a 5-2 lead. The exchange of blocking and fierce attacking at the net narrowed Goldschmidt and Williams lead to 7-6. However Smedins’ cheeky short serve was quickly pounced on by the South Africans when Goldschmidt mercilessly crushed the 2nd ball to take a 8-6 lead.

Frustration set in for the Latvians when they queried a line call and the referee stood by the decision of the line judge. Smedins could not hide his anger when he committed an unforced error by floating a dink out of bounds that took the score to 13-7.

To add to Smedins’ woes the referee blow for a double fault on his set (14-8). When Grant Goldschmidt struck the ball with absolute venom to end the set at 15-8 the fans erupted with loud cheering. The well deserved win was a first for a South African team on the opening day of the FIVB Mangaung Open.

Donovan Nair