On home court in Ljubljana, Slovenia overhelmed Cuba in straight sets (26:24, 25:21, 25:21) in the final of the 2019 FIVB Challenger Cup and advanced to the next year’s edition of the VNL.
Last time Slovenia were members of the competition was in 2017 when it still was called FIVB World League. They finished as Group 2 winners but due to a change of format and tournament’s transition to the Nations League, Slovenia did not find their place among world elite. This will be corrected in 2020 as the Eastern European country will replace Portugal, the lowest-ranked challenger team in the 2019 VNL, in the next year’s edition of the competition.
In final match Klemen Čebulj was the top-scored for Slovenia with 18 points (13 from attack, 3 blocks and 2 serves), followed by Toncek Stern (14), while Marlon Yang scored 11 and was the only double-digit player in Cuba.
Tine Urnaut, captain of Slovenia said: “This tournament was an important chance for us to fight for a place in the Volleyball Nations League. In front of our crowd we showed that we are the best team of this tournament and that we deserve a place among the world’s best teams. Cuba are a very athletic and young team, they have a difficult serve, they have great blockers and good spikers. We knew that we had to push them with our serve and then play block-defence-counterattack and it’s what we did.”
This is the first success of Slovenia under the guidance of their new head coach Alberto Giuliani, who said: “We showed a great level in this game. Also our opponents played very well, they fought, but today we played with heart achieving this extremely important victory. The Volleyball Nations League is an important tournament and it lets players gain valuable experience.”
In the match for the third place, Belarus beat Turkey in four sets.
“Today’s victory is a historical achievement, it’s the first ever podium place for Belarus at the world level, it was also the first tournament for us when we competed with teams from other continents, so it’s a perfect ending,” said captain Siarhei Busel.
“After losing a semifinal 3-2 with such a small point difference, it’s always hard to come back and find motivation. Especially as we were not fully ready to play here, we didn’t perform at the same level as in the European Golden League. I think we should have played much better, we couldn’t make basic things right,” admitted Adis Lagumdzija of Turkey.
2019 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup Finals:
Bronze medal match:
Turkey – Belarus 1-3 (20:25, 25:20, 16:25, 20:25)
Cuba – Slovenia 0-3 (24:26, 21:25, 21:25)
Source and Photos: challengercup.volleyball.world