It turned out that I had more observations from Champions League Final Four than I think were reasonably digestible in a single sitting, so I decided to break it up into two posts. Part one is here.
The story of the match is told in P1 In top level men’s volleyball the most vulnerable rotation is normally with the setter in position 1. That is because it is the one rotation where the opposite must hit in position 4 and one of the receivers must hit in position 2, the relative weaker position for each of those players. It happens very often that it is exactly in P1 (the Italian designation, P = paleggiatore/setter) that the biggest and most decisive series occur. I submit the fourth set of the final as Exhibit A. Belgorod had the perfect match up with its smartest server serving against Halbank’s P1. When Tetyukhin came up to serve at 18-22 in the fourth, the set was over and preparations for the fifth had begun. His own coach had even subbed out the setter and opposite. When he finished serving, it was 23-22 and everything was live again. One rotation later Halbank subbed on a float server to serve to Belgorod’s P1, therefore reducing the likelihood of a direct error and forcing Belgorod to play their way out of it. They did and that was more or less that.
Team of the Tournament
Just for the fun of it, here is my best 7 for the final weekend. I have tried to make it based just on those performances, but I have my little biases that I can’t easily let go.
Setter I don’t think it was a great weekend for the setters. All of them had problems with their accuracy at times, especially to position 4. On paper, Raphael from Halbank should be the best setter of this group, but I think Travica played a little better in the final and was able to give his best weapons enough opportunity to win the match.
Opposite All of the opposites had good matches over the two days. For Lasko, his better match was unfortunately in the bronze medal match and Mikhaylov played half of the time as a receiver. Which leaves Djuric and Grozer. Djuric had a good final, but I give my casting (only) vote to Grozer. Released from the pressure of being ‘the guy’ he was able to simply play great. And scoring the last two points counts for something.
Receivers This is really a packed field. Two years ago, Juantorena was considered the best player in the world and had a pretty good weekend, at least in attack. Five years ago, Kaziyski was considered the best player in the world, and played better than I have seen him play for a couple of years. But both were overshadowed by a guy who played his first Olympics when they were still kids. Tetyukhin was the tournament MVP, and starts on my team. For the second receiver, I pick Kubiak. Maybe Anderson (not to mention Juantorena and Kaziyski) is a better player and had a good, if not great, tournament, but Kubiak is the most important player on his team and I just love the way he plays. If you take your eyes off the game for a minute there is a chance you will miss something that you have never seen before (or at least since the 80’s).
Middle Blockers We don’t need to talk about Musersky. Let’s just write that one straight in. For the second, I can’t say that any of the other middle blockers really grabbed my attention. Admittedly they are in direct comparison with Musersky and are bound to look bad in that context. A little bit by default, I will go with Volkov for the last starting spot. He didn’t always get a chance to show his greatest strengths, but it wasn’t his fault Kazan didn’t achieve what they wanted to.
Libero I am sad to say that I don’t always notice the impact liberos have on the match when I am just watching on TV, so I will have to go a little on reputation here and take Verbov. I can say that the reception stats for the four matches back me up, so I feel mildly confident in making that choice.
So to summarise my team: Travica – Grozer; Tetyukhin – Kubiak; Musersky – Volkov; Verbov (lib). Four players from Belgorod feels about right. I think we would have a chance against most teams and I am certain we would be fun to watch.
Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.