Ludwigsburg, Germany, June 17, 2018 – Russia have not lost to Germany in five years so were strong favourites here, but they would have expected more of a fight as they came through 3-0 winners (25-18, 26-24, 25-18). It is also the first time they have gone through a weekend without losing a match and whilst he did not finish as many points as some of his teammates, Captain Dmitry Volkov was the main man for the duration of the game.
Reigning European champions Russia took another step to securing their place at the Final 6, with Coach Sergei Shliapnikov surely delighted with both the process and outcome here at the MHP Arena. They are now up to 9 wins and level with France and the USA, although they both have results to come in later today.
Romanas Shkulyavichus is not a name that starts many matches for Russia, but he was on form today taking 13 points across the board (8 spikes, 3 blocks, 2 serves). Dmitriy Muserskiy is usually the main man, but could “only“ amass 11 points today, but it was enough to keep his position as best spiker in the whole competition charts.
Germany beat Argentina 3-1 on Saturday to end their run of successive defeats but they will be disappointed with their efforts today. They are currently two wins off a place in the top six with three teams (Bulgaria, Korea and Iran) below them in the standing still to play. Simon Hirsch top scored with 9 points, whilst Lukas Kampa was also his usual calm and controlling self.
Russia led the head to head 22-5 over Germany and they had not met at the world level since the 2014 World Championships, when Russia beat Germany by the same score (3-0). More recently, Germany have won only one of their last 11 matches against the London 2012 Olympic Champions. For the final weekend of matches in this round robin phase Russia travel south to Modena in Italy, while Germany will go to Tehran.
The set started in front of a record attendance this weekend with everyone wanting to see a rerun of the European Championship Gold Medal match from last year. That went to Russia in five sets but with Germany not winning any tie break sets in their last 25 victories they would have been key to avoid that duration if they could.
From the off Russia seemed focused on quietening the crowd and came out firing to a 16-13 lead at the second technical. At 22-17 the set was pretty much in the bag and Russia took it comfortably to eighteen points.
Dmitry Kovalev was in to start for Igor Kobzar and the second set was much closer with Germany managing to stay a point or two ahead for the majority. At 20-20 Russia made some unusual mistakes, but Fromm could not get his serve over the net when two ahead at 23, then Tobias Krick served long on set point. Still set point down and Russia went to what is in volleyball the closest thing to a “sure thing” that exists, a middle set to Muserskiy and it was soon 24 all. With a kill block they were soon up and as a broken play situation found its way to Volkov Russia led 2 sets to nil.
Now knowing they would need to take their first five set win at world level since 2014 if they wanted to win this one, Germany seemed quite demoralised, especially after seeming to have the edge for most of the second set. Coach Andrea Giani did his best to lift their spirits but the difference was evident as the teams waited for an early challenge with Russia standing arm in arm and Germany all stood looking slightly isolated.
It was 8-5 at the first technical and a Kampa ace seemed to provide some hope but before they knew it the scoreboard read 13-7 after a strong serving run by Dmitry Kovalev.
A mega rally at 17-12 lasting 29.2 seconds had players throwing themselves around the court and it was ended with Fromm finding a way through. A shorter funny point followed as Tobias Krick attacked through the middle and the ball bounced between the legs of the ever impressive Aleksei Kabeshov who ended up sitting on the ball.
As is the Russian way, their block stood firm and then Dmitriy Muserskiy was successful at the net and the set ended 25-18.