The contrast between Cédric Énard and Mark Lebedev could not have been greater on Saturday evening. At the third final match in the Max-Schmeling-Halle, Énard, coach of the BR Volleys, already looked tense before the start of the match and repeatedly consulted his co-trainer during the duel. Lebedev from VfB Friedrichshafen, on the other hand, looked relaxed, grinned from time to time and didn't seem to let anything upset him. No wonder: After two defeats in the "best-of-five" series, Énard and the volleys were under a lot of pressure, for them it was the most important match in the Bundesliga so far.
In order to still have a chance to defend the title after two defeats, the Volleys had even opened up the top rank again for the first time. A total of 5535 fans cheered them on loudly - so many were last there in December 2019. With success: in the end, the Volleys prevailed 3:0 (25:23; 27:25; 25:17), so from Berlin's point of view, the score is now 1:2.
Right from the first set, the volleys looked highly concentrated and showed the energy they had lacked in the first two matches. This time Benjamin Patch also got through better with his attacks against Friedrichshafen's block. Nevertheless, the Volleys did not manage to build up a lead in this set; and so in the end it was probably also a bit of luck and the home advantage that contributed to Patch being able to narrowly decide the set for Berlin with two aces.
In the second set, the Volleys already looked a bit more confident and gradually regained their original enthusiasm for the game. Especially captain and setter Sergej Grankin turned up the heat and brought his team into the lead with a strong service series 12:8. Timothée Carle also got into the game better and better and successfully hit the opponent's block time and again. Friedrichshafen fought off the first two set points, but managed to win the third. At this moment it seemed as if the knot had finally burst on the Berlin side. Georg Klein drummed his chest in jubilation, Patch laughed exuberantly and Grankin's facial muscles visibly relaxed.
The Volleys started the last set liberated and built up a four-point lead right at the beginning. A net touch by the Häfler ensured a small preliminary decision, which gave the Volleys a 17:12 lead. After that, everything seemed to work on Berlin's side, while Friedrichshafen had more and more difficulties in the coordination and seemed a bit insecure.
In the end, it was Cody Kessel who converted the match point and made the hall roar louder than at any match so far this season. Even coach Énard looked much more relaxed than he had earlier in the evening. A bit of tension remained though, after all the Volleys still have to win two more games to win the title. They will get their first chance to do so on Wednesday. Inga Hofmann.
Image by Tania Van den Berghen