KOŠICE and Slávia EU claim Slovakian national cup titles after dramatic tiebreaks
Humenné, Slovakia, February 19, 2019. The eastern city of Humenné was the centre of attention for Volleyball fans in Slovakia as the country’s top teams travelled there to play for the first trophy of the season, the Slovakian Cup. VK KDS Šport KOŠICE wrote a piece of history with their very first victory in the men’s competition while Slávia EU BRATISLAVA claimed the women’s title for a record 14th time in 21 editions of the event. Martin Sopko jr. (KOŠICE) and Zuzana Šepeľová (Slávia EU) received the Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards of the competition.
The team from Košice emerged victorious from two thrilling five setters before an almost full house (more than 1,000 spectators) in Humenné. The team coached by Richard Vlkolinský beat VKP Bystrina SPU NITRA in Saturday’s semi-finals and on Sunday, they edged their rivals from eastern Slovakia, i.e. the team from Prešov, after these had previously emerged victorious against TJ Slávia Svidník in the semis.
There is an interesting story that goes with Humenné. Their former team Chemes won the Slovakian national league as many as four times and took the Slovakian Cup three times, but after some disagreement between the owners of the club and the former head of the city, the club has now disappeared for five years from the Volleyball map. “We had a packed house and a fantastic atmosphere. I believe that Volleyball in Humenné will start again and shine in the same way it did in the past,” said the President of the Slovak Volleyball Federation, Martin Kraščenič.
There was an interesting matchup in the finals between two players with the same name and same day of birth – Martin Sopko senior and Martin Sopko jr. Both Sopko’s were best scorers of the match as they registered 21 points each. “It was great finals, and I think everybody enjoyed that. We were down 1-2, but we fought back and finally won. We are very happy and proud,” said Sopko jr., who was born on January 30, 1982. His five-year older namesake Martin Sopko senior added: “We tried to do our best; we played with our hearts and showed our qualities. Unfortunately, we had problems in attack towards the end of the game,” said the player with 182 caps for the Slovakian national team.
The players of Slávia EU BRATISLAVA celebrate their 14th title in 21 editions of the Slovakian national cup.
Former Chemes Humenné star Miroslav Jakubov claimed his fourth National Cup title (the previous three came with Humenné), but the first as a captain. “It was my big dream to win such an important competition as a captain. I cannot find the words to describe my feelings, it is amazing,” said the outside hitter born in Humenné. “I think it was a very close match, finally in the fourth set we started to play the way we wanted to play. It was a difficult game, full of beautiful moments,” added the head coach of KOŠICE, Richard Vlkolinský.
The women’s teams of Slávia EU and Strabag Volleyball Club needed to travel almost 500 kilometres from Bratislava to Humenné to play in the finals. Slávia was 2-0 up, but defending champions Strabag levelled the score and a tiebreak was necessary to decide the winners. Slávia EU finally won the match and confirmed their status of most successful team in Slovakian Volleyball history. “We prepared for the finals, we had enough time. The team wanted to win, they fought and played as we planned,” said Michal Matušov, coach of Slávia EU. MVP of the Finals Zuzana Šepeľová added: “We were two sets up and maybe we thought it would be easy from that point. In the tiebreak we struggled, maybe we were a little bit luckier, but we made less mistakes for sure,” said the 19-year-old outside hitter. “I am proud of my team, they came back into the game and fought, and they played with their hearts,” said the coach of Strabag, Tomáš Varga.
Andrej Kravárik and Adriana Marčeková promoting the CEV EuroVolley 2019 Women during the national cup finals.
The Slovakian Volleyball Federation used this major event to promote the CEV EuroVolley 2019 Women, as Bratislava will be one of the four hosts of this historic tournament. Tournament Ambassador Adriana Marčeková and the coach of the men’s national team Andrej Kravárik attended the finals and spent time with the fans between the women’s and men’s gold medal matches for an autograph session. “It is interesting to speak about EuroVolley in each part of our country. I hope that this historic tournament will attract many people and we will see fantastic Volleyball in Bratislava,” said six-time Slovakia’s Volleyball player of the Year, Adriana Marčeková.