European dream over as Jastrzebski Wegiel win in Golden Set
Jastrz?bie-Zdrój, February 7 - After a convincing victory at home last week, Generali Haching could not repeat the feat in Poland. Jastrzebski Wegiel beat the Bavarians 3-1 (25-21, 25-22, 22-25, 25-19) to force the match into a golden set. Wegiel rode their momentum and home crowd to win the extra set 15-9 and advance to the Final 6.
Haching's head coach Mihai Paduretu had warned his men before this important game, noting the dangers of this trip to Poland. And the home team proved that he was absolutely right, because they showed that they can play nice and effective volleyball. "They were simply the better team tonight," said Haching's assistant coach Berti Golf. "Jastrezebski's staff described this game as their best performance of the year. I particularly liked (Jastrzebski's head coach Lorenzo) Bernardi's strategy. His ideas killed us." Bernardi changed the position of some of his players on the field, and the gameplan caught the Germans unprepared.
The first set was close, but Benjamin Hardy came out strong and scored the crucial points for the hosts. In the second set Unterhaching's defense was better but the kills of the German team were not precise, the Polish team created the breaks and the gap increased. Jastrzebski's good receptions made Unterhaching's hitters unsure. Paduretu's men tried to fill the gap, but their late comeback was not enough to win the second set.
In the third set Unterhaching returned to their usual level and won the set. The Polish team tried to stay close but their serves were weak and Unterhaching's kills could not be blocked. Max Günthör and Paul Carroll scored the crucial points to win the set. In the fourth set Bernardi's men returned to their focused way and Haching had never a real chance to win the set.
As both teams won 3-1 on their respective courts, a golden set had to be played to establish which team would reach next Champions League playoff stage. The home crowd kept supporting their team all match long, but they were of course particularly loud during that decisive last set. Bernardi's men simply kept their momentum going on. Jastrezebski's players were like a coiled spring and battled on every ball. This attitude allowed them to build a lead from which the Germans could not recover.
Haching's end their first Champions League appearance in the playoff stage. They could have done better, but it was a positive European campaign. Paduretu's men did collect important experience, which will help them improve for next year.
Haching return home still alive for Bundesliga and German Cup titles. They travel to take on SCC Berlin on Sunday, who lead the German Volleyball Bundesliga but have also played one more match. Unterhaching return home next Wednesday night against TV Bühl. First serve at 19:30.
Marco Menolfi and Salman Mitha contributed to this article.