Eight teams secure Main Draw spots on opening day of Göteborg Satellite
The expectations were running high as the qualification for the first ever CEV Satellite taking place on Swedish soil started at noon on Thursday at the world’s biggest indoor Beach Volleyball arena, the Beach Centre in Göteborg.
The stands were crowded from the start of the tournament and the supporters did not have to wait too long for the drama to start.
The first game of the day featured Sven Winter/Alexander Walkenhorst from Germany, the top-seeded pair from the qualification round, and the bottom-ranked Danish pair Kristoffer Abell and Daniel Thomsen. The first set was even until the very last points, where Alexander Walkenhorst decided to close it all with a couple of deciding blocks (21-19). The Danish players were not late to respond, and caught an early lead in the second set, which they kept all the way for a 21-16 win. In the third set, everyone could feel the nerves all the way around the court. In the end, Abell and Thomsen managed to sneak out the win by defeating the Germans 15-12. This was a little disappointing for the first-ranked German team, but a huge win for the Danish pair in their first international appearance together.
Just an hour into the qualification and feelings were already flowing freely as the second game started with Russia’s team Alexander Likholetov/Ilya Leshukov securing their ticket to the Main Draw by defeating Turkey’s Hasan Hüseyin Mermer/Ali Osman Nurettin in two straight sets (21-17, 21-16).
The third game of the day lived up to all expectations as Switzerland’s Adrian Heidrich/Gabriel Kissling faced off against young Lithuanians Arnas Rumsevicius/Lukas Kazdailis. The high block of Heidrich proved a great challenge for the Lithuanian duo. Heidrich got the crowd going with big spikes leaving craters in the sand. Rumsevicius/Kazdailis were not impressed, though and having played together since 2013, they had certainly faced difficult situations before. After two tight sets going either way, the Lithuanians brought home the third set 15-10.
In the fourth game the second Russian team, Maxim Sivolap/Igor Velichko joined their compatriots in the Main Draw after defeating Norway’s Christian Helland/Jørn Olav Gamlemoen in two straight sets (21-18, 21-18). Despite being carried forth by large parts of the audience, the Vikings from Norway just could not get hold of the Russian side-out.
One of the most impressive games of the day was the 2-0 victory that the German team Sebastian Fuchs/Eric Stadie accomplished. Going into their game against third-ranked Swiss team Mirco Gerson/Michiel Zandbergen as the underdogs, they quickly silenced the non-believers. Gerson/Zandbergen – though playing at the highest level – were not able to disturb the Germans who rallied to a comprehensive 21-15, 21-13 victory. Sebastian Fuchs was lyrical afterwards: “This was our first tournament of the year, and we were really tired in the end, but we could pull it out. Eric (Stadie) was amazing and it feels like he is the partner I have been looking for. This is our first international appearance together, but we have a great chemistry and playing together feels great. It is so different to play indoors compared to outdoors but I love the facility, the crowd enjoys it and I have to say, I love Sweden. I often come to this country during my holidays and I enjoy being able to compete here.”
There are some important differences between playing outside and indoors such as in Göteborg. Young French team Arnaud Loiseau/Arnaud Gauthier-Rat have been preparing in a special way. “We know that it is possible to get the ball to float more when playing indoors than outdoors, so for the last weeks we have put a lot of time into our float serves,” Loiseau said. “We have been doing serve sessions for an entire hour 2-3 times a week at the indoor venue in Toulouse where we train.” So far, their strategy has worked out just fine as they brought home an intimidating win against Norway’s Aleksander Sandlie Sørum/Jan Erik Moen (21-16, 21-13). The French team happily moved on to the Main Draw where they will face tougher challenges.
Yet another nail biter followed, when Austria and Latvia played in what became the longest game of the day. Latvians Toms Smedins/Aleksandrs Solovejs just could not catch the quick shots from Simon Frühbauer in the first set, this resulting in a 21-16 win for Frühbauer and his new partner Julian Hörl. However, Smedins/Solovejs managed to rise from the ashes and finished the game after a close 16-14 win in the third set.
To close out the day and find the last pair to move into the main tournament the audience could witness a tight game between Santeri Siren/Jyrki Nurminen of Finland, and the heavily supported Swedish team Linus Tholse/Jakob Molin. Youngster Molin was making his first international appearance at the senior level, with the more experienced partner Linus Tholse, and he really stepped up to the challenge. The first set went to Siren/Nurminen, but the Swedes were not done for. Taking home the second set 21-17, they extended the match to a three-setter. In the end, Siren/Nurminen proved to be just a size too big for the Swedes. “It felt good, even though we lost. We have only been training together for 1.5 weeks, and we played a good team. We tried to put pressure on them with tough serves, but Nurminen set perfectly all the time. We will continue training and playing a lot this summer, and even though we lost this was far more experiencing and fun than playing and winning on the highest national level in Sweden,” Tholse said.
The Main Draw will start on Friday morning at 8 a.m., with 16 teams competing for a place in the finals on Sunday. The highest ranked Swedish team Simon Boman/Martin Appelgren are looking forward to stepping into the tournament. Martin Appelgren: “This is a huge event, and I really want everyone to appreciate the work of our club, Göteborg Beachvolley Club. This is very important for Swedish Beach Volleyball. I feel proud to get the chance to play before family and friends, and I am proud to be able to show our great venue to all the international friends coming here to play.”
Simon Boman: “This tournament is one big step in our journey. Our goal is to participate at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. We will play many tournaments this summer, and hopefully we will get more chances to play in Main Draws all around the world and play against the world’s absolute bests.”
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