All the latest from the FIVB Mangaung Open | SASCOC - SASCOC

All the latest from the FIVB Mangaung Open

With back to back wins on the opening day of the FIVB Mangaung Open South Africa’s  number one seeds, Palesa Sekhonyana and Randy Williams squared up with confidence to Italians, Giulia Momoli and Laura Giombini in their final round robin encounter, writes Donovan Nair.
With both teams using similar style of offensive and defensive style of play the match did not rise to any great heights until midway through the set when the ‘noisy’ European lasses stretched their lead to 18-16. Unlike the South Africans the Italians constantly encouraged each other and gelled well as a cohesive unit. Giving only one point away since the 18-16 score line Momoli and Giombini extended their lead to 21-17 and claim the first set in grand style.
Being one set down one would expect the South Africans would be focused on doing the simple things correctly. However, Randy’s first service floated out of bounds giving the head start to grab a straight sets win. Unforced errors by the Europeans handed the SA lasses a 4-1 lead which they failed to hold on to. A series of careless mistakes by the SA duo levelled the scores to 7-7.
Giulia Momoli’s penchant for using the ‘knuckle shot’ that repeatedly caught Randy napping in the back court pushed their scores up 12-9. Both Palesa and Williams who are guilty of making far too many service errors ought to realise that these can be very costly especially against top contenders at this level of competition.
Once again the South Africans were made to pay dearly for their unforced errors as the Italians moved their score to 19-15 and the prospect of closing proceedings was well with their reach.
At 20-15 Williams’ service crashed into the net giving the Italians a 21-15 win.

In men’s action, true to form the highly fancied German pairing of Thomas Kaczmarek and Sebastian Fuchs took the first set against South Africa’s number one seeds, Grant Goldschmidt and Leo Williams with an easy 21-10 win. The strength of the 2m tall Fuchs in the heart of the German defence at the net was all to over powering for the SA lads.
The Germans continued with their winning ways in the 2nd set and raced to a lead. Refusing to be out done Goldschmidt and Williams slowly began their own ‘operation fight back’.
Taken aback by the South Africans spirited fight back the Germans dug deep and stood firm at the net with Fuchs’ huge frame posing a constant threat to the local lads. Undeterred Williams challenged Fuchs at the net resulting in a few valuable points coming the way of Goldschmidt and Williams. The tightly contested encounter was a sheer delight for the fans as they suddenly came alive and shouted words of encouragement to their heroes. The score board was kept ticking evenly from 20-20 to a heart stopping 24-24. The battle at the net between Fuchs and Williams created excitement on the stands. The power attacks and blocking combinations continued for almost 10 minutes. This time round a well executed block on Thomas Kaczmarek at 25-24 brought a delightful end to the titanic struggle as the South Africans edged out their opponents by a 26-24 margin.
A huge block by Leo Williams on Kaczmarek handed the South Africans a tremendous boost. Adding to the Germans woes Goldschmidt placed a soft attack in the middle of the German back court giving them no chance of recovering the ball. Heated rallies followed which ended with the South Africans surging ahead with a 7-4 lead. Under pressure Fuchs serves into the net. When Fuchs went up to stop Goldschmidt’s cross bullet attack he fell to the ground in agony. After a 5 minute medical time  Fuchs bounced back to take his rightful place at the net. When a strong attack came off Fuchs’ block Goldschmidt was quick to recover the ball and direct it to Williams who tipped into the German back court and increased their lead to 11-7. The ‘never say die’ Germans took the fight to the South Africans. Fuchs’ rose above Goldschmidt’s out stretched hands and hammered home a point. Goldschmidt’s mistimed spike rocketed out of bounds to bring the scores to 11-10. When Kaczmarek’s attack failed to cross the tape the score moved to 12-10. Williams roll shot beat Fuchs at the net fell short of Kaczmarek. An angry Kaczmarek latched onto Fuchs’ well timed set and pounded a cross spike. No one moved as the speed of the ball was too great. When the South Africans put  some sunlight between them and Germans with a score line of 14-11 the partisan crowd began their rousing encouragement to help their team win the encounter. When Leo Williams stepped up to stuff block Kaczmarek back to his feet the South Africans fell to the ground raising their hands in appreciation to the heavens.

Reaching the top 16 stage at a FIVB World Beach Volleyball Tour is a tremendous achievement for an African team. South Africa’s number one seeds, Grant Goldschmidt and Leo Williams attained that elusive honour when they triumphed over the Norwegian outfit of Iver Andreas Horrem and Geir Eithun in straight sets, 24-22; 21-11 in front of a fanatical local crowd.
The opening set was a tight affair as both teams sought to probe each other’s strengths and weaknesses and plan their respective offensive and defensive strategies accordingly.
The Norwegians were first out of the blocks as they mixed power play with the occasional well placed dinks to take an early lead. Goldschmidt and Williams patiently gathered momentum and stood up to their more experienced opponents. Sadly what seemed like poor refereeing calls on the Norwegians put a damper on their spirited performance. Some of the local fans shouted their disapproval at the referee. The set took a turn for the worse for  Team Norway.
With the local fans firmly behind the South Africans the tide began to turn in their favour . After a series of well timed blocks by Leo Wiiliams and the occasional cross spikes by Goldschmidt the SA lads levelled matters at 20:20. Tightening their grip at the net helped the SA duo to close the set with a hard fought 24-22 margin.
Continuing with their winning ways Goldschmidt and Williams built up a 13-8 lead by taking the fight to their opponents. Williams’  occasional trade mark ‘cut shot’ and striking the 2nd ball with lightening speed pushed their score to 18-10. Norway’s hard hitting Iver Andreas Horrem effortlessly pulled the trigger and fired a blazing cross spike that left both Goldschmidt and Williams stranded. An ace service from Leo Williams set them up for a match point.
The South Africans won the encounter with a 21-11 score line to reach the last 16 of a FIVB Open for the first time.