There was a sea of orange in the Jastrzebie Ice Palace last night to see the third match of the Polish Finals between Jastrzebski Wegiel and Belchatow (here). 3000 fans packed into the stadium to see if the home team could take a lead in the series that stood at 1-1 before the game. The atmosphere was fantastic as the crowd screamed each players name during introductions and I wouldn’t be surprised if the ice under the temporary volleyball floor melted from the heat and energy of the fans. The game started at a really high level, with great defence and transition attack. They looked like two teams that knew what each other would do at every moment, and how to counter it. At the first technical timeout Jastrzebski held a small advantage and the crowd was primed. Unfortunately for most of the rest of the match they saw a Belchatow team slowly find the rhythm they had been missing in the home matches and draw away. That is until the very end of the third set when aces to Ben Hardy and Patryk Czarnowski helped peg back deficits of 17-21 and 21-24 to level the score at 24-24. The crowd was really rocking at that moment and I had the feeling that anything was possible despite Belchatow having dominated the match. But that is the thing about sport. It picks us up and gives us a peek at the prize before quietly chuckling as it takes it out of view again. The collective groan as the last reception sat on top of the net for the Belchatow middle to kill was a gut wrenching moment. The stats for the game are here, but they don’t make great reading for Jastrzebie/Australian fans.
Jastzebski have only a few hours to bounce back with game 4 being tonight. It should be another packed house and hopefully a different result.
In Greece, it was also an emotional game 3 (although it’s never any other way in Greece) as Olympiakos came back from a 1-2 deficit to win in the tie break away from home and move to within one step of the title. The battle of the opposites must be fascinating to watch live. Last night Agamez again outscored Miljkovic by 1 point – 36-35. Both are scoring at a percentage of close to 60, but Miljkovic seems to be scoring just a few more blocks and aces and perhaps is giving just that little bit more to his team. But you can never tell just from the stats. With the collective emotion of all Panathinaikos-Olympiakos matches and the next game being possibly decisive for the championship, no amount of money in the world could entice me to be in the gym for game 4. That’s a complete lie.
In Russia, Kazan won 3-0 again in game 2 against Lokomotiv Belgorod. They remain unbeaten in the playoffs, with their 5th straight 3-0 victory. All the sets were under 21 and they are probably the favourites to win the championship from here. The stats for game 2 are here.