Hammelburg Volleys – SSC Karlsruhe 1:3 (25:23, 20:25, 17:25, 14:25).
The Duracell bunnies in their red-yellow-white jerseys hopped through the Saaletalhalle. In the best of moods and still full of energy. A few meters further on, the stark contrast: Hammelburgers finished, bent and slumped in on themselves. Sure, you can lose against the league leader, but there would have been more in it for the Saalestadter, who had started so formidable into this top match. Supported by 550 fans who, like the protagonists, had a taste for volleyball. The crazy good mood inspired the home team, which had to do without the injured Luca Dierks at short notice, for whom Janick Sill rotated into the starting six. In the extremely even first set, it was the later silver MVP Nils Rehmeier who kept the belief in a coup alive with strong actions.
The Hammelburg team’s body language, game intelligence and attacking power were all in perfect harmony, and in the final phase of the opening set, when they trailed 22-23, they also scored with nerves of steel – when they converted set point, the audience literally went berserk. In the cup they had to give in to the Badeners still with 0:3, now they had the Primus in the headlock – when the tank was still full. The Lower Franconians led 8:5 at the first technical timeout of set two, and 16:14 at the second. Dynamics and force were right, as was the precision of cleverly placed balls by Oscar Benner and Moritz Zeitler. But these Karlsruhe players always kept up with amazing coolness, which shows self-confidence.
With an SSC ace to 19:20 from Hammelburg’s point of view, the tide turned. In this decisive phase, Hammelburg’s coach Cornel Closca brought in two youngsters, David Baden and Hannes Krochmann, but the hoped-for fresh cell cure did not materialize, not least due to two annoying mistakes in the reception. "Our changes did not have the effect this time as they did in the games in Mainz or Frankfurt. We wanted to sell ourselves well against this strong opponent, but unfortunately it was not enough", Closca said.
Whereby also in the third set at first everything was fine in view of an 8:5 lead. "Hammelburg, like us, has a strong crew. In the first set we made some mistakes, but you must not forget that our place in the table is very unusual for us. Our great strength was that we remained calm", said guest coach Antonio Bonelli later on the following 11:4 run of his team, which would have won the set even without the help of the referees. Some highly controversial decisions in favor of the Badeners were in any case acknowledged by the spectators with indignant boos.
Hammelburg’s coach continued to rely on rotation, ordered Ben Stoverink and further Krochmann on the field "but we have to accept that the Karlsruhe changes were much more effective than ours. That was a clear plus with the opponent" knew Closca, whose troop from the 6:6 really fell into a hole. Rapid and irreparable loss of energy, while the opponent bagged the deserved victory on full power display. Before the Christmas break, the Hammelburg Volleys still have a double match day waiting for them next weekend with demanding performances in Grafing (Saturday) and Friedrichshafen. "The air is slowly gone, but that was to be expected. We have to fight to keep having fun playing and practicing", says Closca. So the last push is needed – and perhaps an energy consultant from the local public utility company.