Does it even feel like the European Cup when you face another Austrian team? “Even though we already know Tyrol well, it’s something different just because of the two-legged tie,” says Sophie Maass.
Tomorrow the captain will welcome Linz-Steg Innsbruck with her Oberbank Steelvolleys for the first leg of the round of 16 of the CEV Challenge Cup. When their coach Facundo Morando speaks of a “difficult game”, it is mainly due to the duels of the season so far.
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On the one hand, the Innsbruck women managed to wrest the Supercup away from the Linz women (3:2), and on the other hand, they just pushed Steg off the top of the table. It seems as if this year the Tyroleans could actually scratch the aura the Linz women have built up over the past few seasons.
The reason for this is obvious – at least according to Linz manager Andreas Andretsch: “They have shown a very good hand in choosing their outside attackers.”
This primarily refers to the French Marie Nevot and the Polish Rozalia Hnatyszyn. The benefits of this are not only immediately visible on the field in the form of points, “with better players you also get a higher quality in training,” Andretsch expects effects that will only become noticeable in the championship-deciding spring.
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The manager speaks of a “50:50 chance” for Linz in the best case scenario, although his team managed a kind of revenge with 3-1 in the first league duel this season. “The service was the key to the victory,” analyzes Morando, who expects a close game. According to the Argentine, it helps that his team “showed character and boosted their self-confidence” in the 3-2 win over runner-up Sokol/Post last Saturday.
Only with eleven players
Unlike in the Supercup and the league, the Innsbruck women will only travel with a team of eleven tomorrow. The appointment during the week is to blame. “Some may not be able to because of work,” says Andretsch. This is not uncommon in a semi-professional sport. This only increases the Linz women’s chances to a limited extent, as the absentees are probably not the key players with professional contracts.
Andretsch does not deny that Steg has long been considering how to respond to the increased level of competition: “In my position you always have to think about how we can end up at the top.”
A possible reinforcement before the play-offs depends on many factors – mainly financial ones. And for him the outcome of this European Cup duel is crucial. “If we get promoted, our financial leeway will be almost zero,” says Andretsch, pointing out that European Cup victories in volleyball mean costs.
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