With Sunday’s V-Day spectacular in Rome, the 2010-11 European season officially ended, leaving volleyball fans scratching their heads wondering what they will do in the 12 days they have to wait for the international season to start. But that is another story.
The end of anything is a time to look back, thinking about what just happened and perhaps to try to put it into some context. There were some events that were so standard they could be used to provide comfort in an ever changing world. For example, Bełchatów and Friedrichshafen winning their respective leagues for the 6th and 7th consecutive times and the Greek league having financial troubles and not paying all their players. There were some events that were so earth shattering they could be used to prove the Mayan end of the world. For example, Lennik reaching the Belgian league final after Roeselare and Maaseik played against each other for 14 consecutive years. That was so earth shattering that Lennik itself forgot to sign their own coach for next season. Mostly though it was more of the same, about half the teams won, about half the teams lost. and ultimately hardly anyone was satisfied.
I’ve noticed that many writers in actual publications and real website use the ‘Best of’ device for writing reviews, so I thought I might give it a try. Here goes…
Hightlight of the Season – Without question my season’s highlight was walking into the tunnel at the Max Schmeling Halle before the game against Haching and seeing the cast of ‘We Will Rock You’ bounding all over the court doing their thing. That was the exact moment I knew that there is something special happening in Berlin. A close second highlight was three months later in the same arena beating Haching to clinch the semi final series and earn a place in the finals. It was a wonderful moment knowing the work from the last eight months had been worth it and in the most important match of the season we played the best volleyball we could possibly play. We won’t talk about the finals.
Player of the Season – There is no question that the European player of the year for season 2010-11 is Osmany Juantorena. Over the last two years he has developed from a very good player into the best player in the world and the leader of the best club team in the world. If there is an argument that club volleyball is better than international volleyball, he would be held up as Exhibit A. The Olympics will be enormously poorer due to his absence. (Exhbits B and C are Wout Wijsmans and Igor Omrcen. Exhibits D and E are whoever are the 11th and 12th qualifiers).
Team of the Season – As Juantorena flies, so flies Trento. 45 wins for the season. Three trophies from four competitions. In the biggest games of the year, dominating performances against Kazan in the Champions League and Cuneo in V-Day. They are the team of the year and perhaps the team of the last ten years. I would love to watch a tournament between 2011 Trento, 2008 Kazan and 2005 Treviso. But lets move on…
Performance of the Season (A1) – I can be accused of bias for this but my performance of the year was Paul Carroll in the German Cup final. 8 points in the fifth and only one error for the match were more than decisive in Haching’s victory. Many people credited the setter with the victory and he should receive credit for his team’s high attack percentage. But I believe some of that is diminished when all of the points are by the same spiker.
Performance of the Season (1A) – I have to give two ‘awards’ for this. Trento played a great season but sometimes an outstanding single performance can outdo even the best teams. Angel Dennis gave one of those performances in game 2 of the semi final series. He had 27 points in three sets, including this run of five consecutive aces (and seven in nine serves) in the third set. It is pretty incredible to watch.
Disappointment of the Season (Match) – V-Day. The biggest day of the Italian season and the last day of the entire season lasted just 72 minutes. 8000 plus spectators in the most spectacular stadium I’ve been in (PalaLottomattica n Rome) barely had time to find their seats before Trento won 25-13, 25-22, 25-9. It was incredible to watch, and not in a really good way. Last season V-Day was a massive success and a wonderfully realised experiment. This year an enormous failure. Aside from the game, there were fewer spectators and less sponsor interest. Now I expect they’ll go back to best of five. One commentator wrote that if this game is one of five, noone will remember it. Who knows.
Disappointment of the Season (Overall) – The continuing prevalence of old school volleyball. The central tenet of the old school is that clubs/coaches/players are natural adversaries. In the ‘old school’ players don’t want to play and have to be forced and threatened. In the ‘old school’ coaches only want to screw over players and therefore cannot be trusted. In the ‘old school’ clubs are hindered in their activities by the presence of coaches and players and they are therefore interchangeable. The ‘old school’ doesn’t allow for partnerships or long term development. The ‘old school’ eschews modern (i.e. post 1980) training methods and uses training as a method of punishment. The ‘old school’ pays scant regard to statistics and scouting (“volleyball is not chess”) despite 27 years of proof they are integral tools for success. But you can’t argue against what worked back then.
Luckiest Team of the Season – The old saying goes, ‘it’s better to be lucky than good’. Being lucky and good is an unbeatable combination. By any definition Dynamo Kazan (starring Lloy Ball and Reid Priddy) are good. The final of Champions League shows that. So does the Russian Championships victory but that didn’t come easily. You can’t win without luck and Kazan had theirs in the quarter finals. Despite finishing the regular season in second place and playing the seventh best team in the quarter finals, they found themselves in the fifth set of a fifth match, down 11-14. One two of the next points Yaroslavl were very, very to close to winning. That’s all I’ll say. But you can see it for yourself here.
And so the season 2010-11 is over. But as the Germans say, after the season is before the season. So we are already onto the next one.