Two weeks after those beautiful days on the ‘beach’ we went back indoors. Given the outstanding performances, and wonderful atmosphere inside the ‘Volleydome’ as well as the not-so-beach-friendly weather outside, we didn’t really regret that move.
Volleyball is huge in Münster. It has been for a long time, with especially the USC Münster’s women constantly playing among the top teams in the Bundesliga (nine national titles, among others…) and attracting large crowds, second only to, you know it already, Association Football, even though Münster currently ‘only’ hosts a third division football team…
And so the German National Team, called ‘Die Schmetterlinge’ (German for ‘butterflies’ but also a wordplay on the German term for ‘to spike’, ‘schmettern’), came to Münster for the start of their 2017 campaign. For some of them it was a fresh start indeed, as four players (Barbara Wezorke, Irina Kemmsies, Dora Grozer and Tanja Großer) got the chance for their debut performances on the international stage (quite similar to the Danas a few weeks earlier…). Their opponents from Hungary may not be one of the absolute top teams in the world, they rank quite a few places behind the Germans, but they are still known to be strong performers with some adequate skill and perseverance and, as some would say later, they were even stronger than expected.
2017 is the year of the European Championships, which will take place in Azerbaijan and Georgia. Then there is of course the all important Qualifying tournament for the 2018 World Championships. And the long term goal, which will not necessarily be in the players’ minds (not for all of them at least) but certainly in those of the coaching staff, is the qualification for Tokyo 2020. The last time a German Women’s team played in an Olympic tournament was at Athens 2004, then led by the extraordinary Angelina Grün.
A quite large crowd of (officially) 2149 turned up at Münster’s Volleydome (aka Sporthalle am Berg Fidel). Our seats were right behind one small end of the court, where the goals would be for Handball or the baskets for Basketball. This caused, well, not really trouble, but during warm up when both teams practiced serves and spikes with several balls at the same time, it required a certain degree of attention to avoid having yourself or your drink hit by a stray ball.
As the game commenced, we saw the ‘Schmetterlinge’ off to a good start, but at some point during the first set they lost track, allowing the Hungarians to take the set 25:21. There was a lot of nervousness visible in the German play, a lack of precision in the setting, causing in turn a lack of confidence by the hitters who sometimes would have done better just to go for it than to wait for the perfect second contact.
But all of this changed significantly halfway through the second set. The spikes were much more secure and more confident, and the blocks began to work as well. Sets two and three went to the Germans. Set four saw an early Hungarian lead, but after the ‘Schmetterlinge’ managed to level the set at 12, they didn’t leave their opponents any more chance to catch them. Finally, it was on debutant Tanja Großer (VC Wiesbaden) to convert the second match point.
Outside hitter Maren Brinker and Opposite hitter Louisa Lippmann (both SSC Palmberg Schwerin) proved to be the strongest amongst a generally well-performing German team. And indeed, they were their team’s top scorers, but followed very closely by Jennifer Geerties (another one from Schwerin). Hungary’s offensive on the other hand mostly concentrated on the power and skill of Gréta Szakmáry (Békéscsabai RSE) who alone delivered 29 of Hungary’s points. An impressive figure, but it made their gameplay predictable, and the longer the game progressed, the better the ‘Schmetterlinge’ managed to adapt to that.
A second encounter between the two sides, just a few days later in Oldenburg, ended in a straight sets victory for the Germans. And as I’m writing this, they are already way into the Qualifying Tournament for the World Championships. Having won the first three matches in convincing fashion, giving up only one set in total, they are now ever so close to winning the ‘golden ticket’ to the World Championships in Japan. The way ahead looks so bright for our ‘Butterflies’ and maybe this time the sky is the limit…