Red Dragons fall just short of stunting against top nation Poland
Belgium - Poland: 2-3
Our Red Dragons lost their opening match at the Olympic qualifying tournament in the Chinese city of Xi'An by the tiniest of margins against top favourite Poland.
We actually got a match ball at 14-13, but in the end the dime fell the wrong way: 25-23, 20-25, 16-25, 25-22, 15-17.
Set 1: 25-23
Less than three weeks after Poland eliminated our boys on their way to their European title, another confrontation between the two countries followed. In that previous game, Mathijs Desmet had crowned himself our top scorer, but this time he had to stand idly by from the bench with a back injury.
Coach Zanini could, however, count on Pieter Coolman, who celebrated his return to the national team by opening the match with an ace. But still, after the Poles quickly ran out to 4-7, he provided balance at 10-10 with two killblocks and two smashes. With Sam Deroo, Ferre Reggers and Wout D'Heer, the Dragons reached 19-17. Seppe Rotty picked up his first point for 23-21, giving him the confidence for an ace: 24-21. Sam Deroo rounded off the collective brilliance at the third set ball: 25-23
Set 2: 20-25
Stijn D'Hulst had already fed his attackers very well in the first set and he continued to sprinkle pearls in early set two as well. Libero Martin Perin was right in reception and 'Woody' D'Heer blocked us to an early 5-3.
But that last part is exactly the strength of the European champions and soon they blocked away our ambitions: 7-10. Jolan Cox came to relieve Ferre Reggers and that worked until 13-14. Only then did we fold a bit under the storage pressure: 15-19. The reds pulled that lead over the line at 20-25.
Set 3: 16-25
In set three, too, we initially kept pace. Rotty and D'Heer made it 7-7, before the number 1 of the world rankings shifted into top gear and squeezed us: 8-13 and even 10-18. An ace by Fornal sealed our fate: 16-25.
Set 4: 25-21
Ferre Reggers provided new energy at the start of set four. With a four-on-four in attack plus a killblock, he led us to 10-8. Unfortunately, Fornal got another ace behind his name with a lot of help from the net edge: 10-10. The Polish giant faltered, especially when our Dragons turned out with four great defences in one rally and won the most beautiful rally of the day: 20-20. With three excellent serves from Sam Deroo, we even got to 24-21 and Pieter Coolman finished the final spurt brilliantly with a killblock: 25-21.
Set 5: 15-17
The tiebreak started well: Reggers kept finishing and the Poles searched in vain for their best service: 8-6. 'De Ferre' still tipped delightfully to 9-7. Fortunately, the video-challenge corrected a wrong in/out decision by the ref for 10-9 and after again great defensive work Reggers scored 12-11. Sam Deroo followed him up with a superb block for 13-12 and 14-13. On matchball we blocked three Polish attacks, but on the last one the ball fell narrowly out... Our chance was gone, Poland played out all its routine and saved its skin on its second match point, with-again-a block: 15-17.