Thursday, December 15, 2005

Toubro for MVP...

I had a good chance to think about last night’s loss as we drove home from Copenhagen. It hit me lot harder than a lot of other losses that I have ever been a part of. Partly because we were so thoroughly manhandled, partly because it was such an important game and partly because it has been a long, long time since I have participated in a loss, almost two years actually.

But there was no doubt that Gentofte was a far better team than us last night. They had a great game plan (and I admit that part of it was leaving Stewart wide open, so if any other teams want to use that tactic they are welcome to it), they were excited to play and they executed well. That being said, we had several chances to score points but it seemed like almost every time that we picked a ball up in defense and tried to transition it, they would just block whoever was hitting. Whether I was choosing the wrong people to set to or whether their block was just that good doesn’t really matter. In the end the match wasn’t close, and the scores reflect that.

Mads Toubro was the best player on the court by far. I would say that he changed the whole complexion of the match in the first set. It seemed like everytime we threatened to push our lead to more than two points they could rely on him to put a difficult ball away, no matter if there were two or three blockers waiting for him. His serving was also good. So, hats off to Gentofte, I hope that you play as well as you did last night in the finals! And hopefully next time we play each other, we can give you guys some competition.

Now, on to us. After playing Middelfart (in training) and Gentofte in the last few days I think it is fairly obvious that they are the two teams to beat at this point in the season. There is no doubt in my mind that they are a class above us right now and that we have a lot of hard work ahead of us if we want to reach that level. Hopefully with the LONG break until the first match after Christmas we will have time to get in the gym and work on our problems. And there is a long list to go through.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A few notes from Hvidovre and Middelfart...

A match report is already up on but I thought I would add a couple of thoughts on our match from Sunday and our training match against Middelfart from yesterday.

I have been fairly kind to Hvidovre throughout the season. In the beginning, I wrote that I felt that they had the potential to do better than they have in the past couple of seasons. After playing them, and this isn’t to be unnecessarily hard on Hvidovre, I understand why they aren’t winning many matches.

Generally, and most importantly, they are far too careless with points. Lose a point? No big deal, move on. Hit a ball out? Make an unhappy face and then move on. Serve into the back wall? Yell angry words and then forget about it. These things have to run deeper than just a superficial expression of how angry you are at yourself for making a mistake. You have to take that mistake, understand why and how you made it and then try to correct it.

While it is important as a volleyball player to forget about the last play and move on, it is also vital that the collective losing of points be stored somewhere in your brain so that you can be aware of when it is time to make a secure serve or when it is time to really go for it. Aggressiveness is key. But controlled aggression is the name of the game. Serving ball after ball out, in the name of “pressing your serve” is not the way to win a match. (Note: This turned into a diatribe on volleyball in general, not just Hvidovre)

Specifically for Hvidovre: The blocking tactics were mystifying. I take it as a kind of personal insult sometimes when teams decide not to block against one of my players. Leaving the opposite open cannot be considered a good tactic. It implies that one; he isn’t good enough to put the ball away with no blockers. Two, that I won’t be good enough to see that you aren’t blocking against him. And three, that you will now be able to stop our middles or other hitters just because you have an extra blocker to help. Also, committing on the middle every time is just an invitation for disaster. You may get one good solid stuff block somewhere in match, that is true. But even that isn’t for sure. What is for sure is that the outside hitters will hit a really high percentage because they will be hitting against one blocker all day long.

It’s important that middle blockers make an effort to read the game if they are ever going to develop into good players. You cannot just commit in the middle all the time. It’s lazy and sloppy and it makes the game much too easy for the other team. I don’t deny that middle blocker is probably the hardest position to play in the game of volleyball, but that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t try to play it well. And I don’t mean this just for Hvidovre, that goes for a lot of the middle blockers that we have played against this year. Using what I have just said as a smooth transition, there is a team that is playing very disciplined volleyball, with middles that are working very hard on reading, and that team is Middelfart.

In our training match last night there was no doubt which team was better and it wasn’t us. I wouldn’t say that we played up to our best and I don’t have a good reason why not, but they clearly outplayed us in all the facets of the game. Particularly defense, where they touched a lot of balls, both at the net and in the backrow. It was great to see a team functioning as a unit the way they do, and I have to take my hat off to them. Hopefully, the next time we play we’ll be able to match some of that intensity and give you guys a good game.

If we plan on winning in Gentofte on Wednesday then it will take a much better effort than last night. There were just too many errors, especially on simple plays. We couldn’t get into a good rhythm because somewhere in the chain of bump, set, spike we would make a mistake. Volleyball can be an easy game unless you make it really hard on yourself and we did that last night. Anyways, hopefully thing will turn around here today and tomorrow and we can look forward to a Pokal final after Christmas…

Friday, December 09, 2005

Tips 9/12/05

It looks like a lot of the drama from the elite division took place last weekend. All of the slutspil teams are found, all that is left to find out now is who will end in which position. And even though things went poorly last week with Holte winning and Hvidovre disappointing, I’m pretty optimistic about the offerings for this weekend.

Gentofte – Holte (H1.50): Holte has proven that they are good enough to be in the slutspil. But beating SK Aarhus and beating Gentofte are two very different things. The home team should be motivated with the upcoming Pokal semi-final on Wednesday. They should be hungry to erase the somewhat disappointing loss from last weekend and simply put, Holte doesn’t have the horses to keep up with them. I would be surprised if this one goes more than three sets.

SK Aarhus (H1.50) – Middelfart: A lot of people were predicting a Holte win last weekend against Aarhus. I don’t know if that says more about Aarhus’ level or Holte’s. But in any case, playing against Middelfart isn’t going to be any easier. With a Pokal semi-final also coming up in the next week these two teams should be eager to perform at a high level. The problem for Aarhus is that they have been inconsistent all year long while Middelfart has continued to play good volleyball. SK will probably debut their new Brazilian but in the end it shouldn’t have too much effect on the outcome of the match. 3-0 to Middelfart. (A package of Middelfart and Gentofte gives odds over 2 and looks pretty darn attractive right now.)

Lyngby – DHG (H1.50): Neither team has very much to play for. DHG has been playing well as of late but Lyngby has also played good volleyball. I think Lyngby is the better team on this day. 3-1 to Lyngby.

PVC Lyngby (H2.50) – HIK Aalborg: Anything but a 3-0 win for Aalborg here is not good enough. PVC has nothing to play for while HIK is looking to take over 4th place and the one point that gives for the slutspil. Further, they have been playing well lately and should continue their development. Playing in PVC is never an easy thing to do but I think the team from Aalborg has the class to run away with this one, especially against a PVC team with little motivation.

Hvidovre (H2.50) – Marienlyst: Marienlyst.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Team Danmark - At it again...

In the past couple of days it has been announced that Team Danmark is continuing with their plan to shut down support the national basketball team. Since volleyball has been closely tied with basketball during the recent struggles with TD I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at the situation and the ideas behind it.

First, it’s important to note that Basketball has ALREADY qualified as an A-nation in Europe. Out of all the teams that were close to losing support they are one of the few who actually stepped up and responded to the challenge. As volley-supporters, we have to honestly admit that volleyball isn’t at the same level yet. Another notable team that didn’t qualify for the World Cup recently…football!

If we take a look at the way the sport has developed in recent years, even in the few that I have been here, I would have to say that basketball is functioning on a higher plane than volleyball is. They’ve got more fans, a better growth rate and as far as I can tell, a more professional attitude about the whole thing. There has been an obvious focus on talent development for youth and clearly the sport is growing. I would even say, and I admit I haven’t looked at any statistics, that basketball is probably one of the biggest growth sports in the world at the moment. So my question is, why us and not them?

How can it be justifiable that volleyball has been given another year of support under TD while basketball finds itself outside of the umbrella?

I ask this question only because I find the current TD support policy mystifying. There are supposed concrete reasons why certain teams and certain individuals are receiving support but generally, I’m having a hard time figuring them out. I would love it if someone would write and explain them better to me because as of now I am just confused. Let me ask some seemingly dumb questions: Why do incredibly profitable established sports who have sponsors lined up out the door still receive support from TD? (By these, I mean Football, Handball, etc…) Further, what can handball do with an extra 1.5 million kroners that they couldn’t do before? If a sport is performing under all the requirements for support then why don’t they get support? Or are the requirements just “guidelines” for who should receive support? Are there any distinctions made for team sports as compared to individual sports? Is it about winning gold medals? Or is it about developing sport as an important part of culture? Or is it about equality for all sports? Or is it about developing all sports to become better and better?

I bring all of this up because we, in the volleyball world, need to be aware that TD support shouldn’t be taken for granted. When they decided to cut funding for volleyball last year everyone went crazy and reacted as if it was the end of the world and that TD support was the only way volley could survive. People also reacted as if volleyball was entitled to the money. And this isn’t the case. Not to sound like the sky is falling, but if Basketball can lose their funding then volleyball can just as easily lose theirs.
It is vital that volleyball looks long-sighted starting now. I agree with what others have said about the license system, that it needs some fine-tuning, but I also think it is an important step in the right direction. Sitting protected in the shadow of Team Danmark, it can be easy to forget just how easily someone can whisk that umbrella away.

Anyways, I just found it sad that TD had decided to cut funding for one of the most popular up and coming sports in Denmark and in Europe. And the more I think about it, the more I realize there is little to be done. No matter who they cut off, TD is going to hear complaints with good justifications as to why that sport shouldn’t be cut, but at some point they have to make a decision. All the complaining and politicking in the world can’t really do anything about it. (Except in volleyball’s case where they miraculously got funding back). So, I hope that volleyball can figure out a way to be more independent whether it is through the license system, sponsors or something else, because that way it will be all the more satisfying and gratifying for the people involved in the sport in the future.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Gentofte Match and some other stuff…

From what I heard, yesterday’s match was a bit sloppier than expected. I think both teams played well at times, Gentofte was clearly better than us in the second set for example. But overall there were too many service mistakes, hitting errors and personally, setting errors. The team and I will take a little time to get back into a good rhythm after my time out. On the good side, we won and generally my shoulder felt pretty good. In fact, I might just float serve from now on…

I think both teams can expect a different match next time. I know that Gentofte will play better, especially on their home court. And I know that we can play better. Hopefully that will result in a good volleyball match in Copenhagen, the way a semi-final should be.

I’ve spent time in this blog criticizing the referees, but there should also be space to give them credit. I can happily say that I felt yesterday’s match was the best refereed match I have played in all year. It was a pleasure!

I don’t know if anyone else has been checking on them, but Wuppertal lost a heartbreaker last night, 3-2 to Berlin. That would have been a BIG win for them as it would have established that they are ready to compete with the top of the Bundesliga. As it stands now they haven’t beaten any of the real top teams yet. I expect that Mads was starting but no word on how much Peter played.

Congrats to Holte for playing themselves into the slutspil. I already said it but I was pretty surprised that Sk Aarhus didn’t win that match. It also looks like it’s going to be a tight race over on the ladies’ side. DHG, Amager or SK Aarhus isn’t going to make it. Great to see that some new faces have stepped up this year. It will be interesting to see what happens next weekend!

A couple of the statements in the game report from the Marienlyst website were wrong. Mads Toubro was behind the serve series in the second set that pretty much won it for Gentofte...

Friday, December 02, 2005

Tips 2/12/05

The biggest match this weekend takes place on Windelsvej in Odense. Gentofte is coming to town for a preview of our Pokal semi-final in two weeks time. It also looks like the match will decide which one of us ends the grundspil in second place and takes two points over to the slutspil, it should be a good one and I’m looking forward to it. Besides our match, it looks like there are a couple of other open games out there that I’ll take a closer look at now.

HIK – Lyngby (H 2.50): HIK proved last week that they are playing on a higher level than they were earlier in the year. Even though they have been missing some key players, they dominated their match against Hvidovre and then took Gentofte to a tight fifth set before losing. Lyngby has also been playing decent volleyball lately but there is, simply put, a class difference here that should result in an easy HIK win. I would be surprised at anything other than a 3-0 win to HIK.

DHG (H 1.50) – Hvidovre: Besides our match against Gentofte, this is probably the most open match this weekend. If it was earlier in the season I would pick Hvidovre no question. But these teams seem to be going in different directions at the moment. While DHG has shown improvement, possibly because of the addition of some new players, Hvidovre has gone downhill. A lot of the optimism from early on is gone and they have little left to play for except a good place in the elite qualification. DHG hasn’t won a match all year and that means that they have little to lose in this one, I expect that they will come out aggressive and put pressure on Hvidovre to beat them. The question is whether or not Hvidovre has the necessary experience to settle in and play solid volleyball in the face of strong opposition. Something tells me that they can in this one. I’m picking Hvidovre in 4.

Middelfart – PVC Lyngby (H 2.50): Middelfart has proven that they make fewer mistakes than any other team in the league. Like a good poker player, they are solid and aggressive and that means trouble for a PVC Lyngby team that can’t play with the same consistency. They’ve played before and it wasn’t close. I don’t see why anything changes here. 3-0 to the home team.

Holte (H 1.50) – SK Aarhus: There has been a lot of talk about Holte being able to pull off an upset here. I don’t see it happening. I’ve been suspect of Aarhus all year long, and I’m still not sure that they have enough stability on the outsides to be a real threat. But when you put them up against a team like Holte who will have trouble stopping a strong middle attack I think they have just enough to win. To beat Aarhus, Holte is going to have to pressure them with strong serving and I’m just not sure they can do it. I’m taking Aarhus 3-0 30-28, 26-24, 28-26. Let’s see what happens.

Marienlyst – Gentofte: We’ve been looking forward to this one for weeks. No handicap, same odds, both teams hopefully back at full strength. I’d be disappointed if it isn’t a good one. I know I’m excited.