Estonia’s RAKVERE VC claim first Baltic League crown after nail-biting final
News from the National Federations
Võru, Estonia, March 20, 2017. The Credit24 Champions League – formerly known as Schenker Volleyball League and The League of Hundred – which brings together teams from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania reached its climax last weekend in Võru where Estonia’s RAKVERE VC celebrated their first triumph in the prestigious Baltic League.
It was a thrilling two days of Volleyball in south-eastern Estonia where three Final Four tournament matches needed a fifth set to determine the eventual winner. For the third time in the league’s history, only Estonian teams made it to the medal matches.
In the semis RAKVERE VC, which ended the regular season in fifth place and had previously edged Lithuania’s VILNIUS Kolegija/Flamingo in the quarterfinals, defeated 3-1 (18-25, 26-24, 25-17, 25-10) Bigbank TARTU, and titleholders PÄRNU VC grabbed a nail-biting 3-2 (16-25, 25-21, 23-25, 25-20, 15-11) victory over Selver TALLINN. As a result, the two best clubs from the regular season had to play only for the bronze medals. Nevertheless, they offered a sell-out crowd at Võru Sports Centre a remarkable show that ended victoriously for Bigbank TARTU (3-2; 25-22, 25-23, 27-29, 22-25, 15-10).
However, this was only a prelude for this season’s Credit24 Champions League most important game. The underdog RAKVERE VC lost the first two sets quite rapidly by the score of 12-25 and 20-25, but then the game shifted. “I told my players that we only had to do our things well. From there we started to play with more variety and options in attack and our opposite Siim Põlluäär gained points from situations that at the beginning of the match were not successful for us. In addition to that, we should not forget that PÄRNU VC played really well in the first two sets,” RAKVERE VC head coach Urmas Tali said.
Põlluäär, who received the award for the Most Valuable Player, netted 27 points, and one of them neutralised PÄRNU’s match ball in the fourth set. After that, the attacker made another two successful spikes and was unstoppable in the fifth set as well, where his success rate in attack stood at a terrific 83.3 percent. “The semi-final and final matches were similar. We had to wait until we managed to win a set and from that point we took a lot of good feelings and positive energy that supported us,” Põlluäär said. RAKVERE VC eventually won the final 3-2 (12-25, 20-25, 25-22, 26-24, 15-13).
Of course, it was a heart-breaking loss for PÄRNU. “From the third set RAKVERE VC showed impressive defence and reception. At the end our attack was also not working anymore,” PÄRNU VC head coach Avo Keel acknowledged.
Rakvere, which is a small town with less than 20,000 inhabitants in the eastern part of Estonia, was once a Volleyball powerhouse. In the middle of the 1990s, they won multiple national titles but after that, there was a huge void until last season. In December 2015, the team made it to the Estonian Cup final after 18 years of absence, won a medal in the Estonian Championship for the first time in 16 years and had their first ever trip to the Baltic League Final Four.
Click here for a video clip reviewing the top 5 moments of the Final Four tournament held in Võru.
Credit24 Champions League Individual Awards
MVP and Best Opposite: Siim Põlluäär (RAKVERE VC)
Best Spiker: Taavet Leppik (PÄRNU VC)
2nd Best Spiker: Tanel Uusküla (RAKVERE VC)
Best Middle Blocker: Toms Švans (PÄRNU VC)
2nd Best Middle Blocker: Kaupo Kivisild (RAKVERE VC)
Best Setter: Artis Caics (RAKVERE VC)
Best Libero: Rait Rikberg (Bigbank TARTU)
Final standing of the 2016-2017 Credit24 Champions League
1. RAKVERE VC (EST)
2. PÄRNU VC (EST)
3. Bigbank TARTU (EST)
4. Selver TALLINN (EST)
5. VILNIUS Kolegija/Flamingo (LTU)
6. RIGA RTU/Robežsardze (LAT)
7. SC JEKABPILS Luši (LAT)
8. Poliurs/OZOLNIEKI (LAT)
9. VC Biolars/JELGAVA (LAT)
10. ŠIAULIAI Elga Masters Idea SM (LTU)
11. JÄRVAMAA VC (EST)
12. Ezerzeme/DAUGAVPILS Universitate (LAT)
13. TTÜ TALLINN (EST)
14. ASK/KULDIGA (LAT)