Monday, September 15, 2014

Knallecuppen Pre-Season Tournament

This past weekend, Gislaveds VBK sent both their Elit and Superettan teams to compete at one of Sweden's largest international tournaments, Knallecuppen. The tournament hosts women's and men's teams participating in the Elite and Division 1 levels of their respective countries, and provides teams with two-days of competition. The Damer Elit (Women's Elite) division hosted seven teams: four of which are active in the Swedish Elite Series. Teams were broken into two pools for round-robin group-play; the first place team of each pool automatically advanced to the semifinals, while second- and third-place finishers would play one another in two quarterfinal matches.


Our day started off with an 8:00am departure from Gisle Sportshall, driving 55 minutes northwest to the tournament's host city of Borås. Dick had told us at Friday's practice that there were no outcome expectations, that we should instead focus on personal goals in every match, using this weekend as an opportunity to practice and train our skills in live-match situations. Each player was given 2-3 goals that they should carry with them in the tournament, and we were told that, as a team, winning would come as we achieved those goals. Dick is very passionate about the mental game, and helps to remind us that we play volleyball because we love it and enjoy the game. You can fake having fun, but until it is genuine, you won't truly be happy.

Gislaveds VBK-Koll Volley (Oslo, Norway): 27-25, 25-18

Our first match of any tournament is always a challenge. Off to a shaky start in the match, we fought hard to come from behind and managed a close first-set victory. We recovered stronger in set two, gaining control and momentum throughout, allowing us to play more aggressively and secure the win.

Gislaveds VBK-Amager VK (Copenhagen, Denmark): 25-19, 25-22

We managed ourselves much better than our first match, allowing Dick to test out a few changes in our lineup. After a solid set-one, Dick challenged us with a 6-2 offense, which is very rare in international volleyball due to limits on substitutions (here, we only have 6 total per set, with no re-entry; meaning you can sub in/out once and that's it!). We struggled to find a new rhythm with the change and were a bit unorganized at times, but managed to pull out the win. 

Gislaveds VBK-KFUM Göteborgs VK: 25-19, 25-22

Whenever you play a regular-season opponent in pre-season or a friendly-match, an internal switch gets turned on and you know it's "go-time", but this was an extra-special match for Sanna, as she had played with them for the past two years in the elite series before returning back to Gislaved (her home club). Dick also gave a few players new goals for this match, as we had already guaranteed our position in the tournament playoffs. Despite Göteborg not having a "real" setter (as their had recently been injured) they fought hard, and kept us on our toes throughout the match.

L to R: Mikaela (2), Sanna (11), me (13), Jollan (7), Emma (14), Lisa (9)


Thanks to Daniel, we were able to get a little later start, leaving Gisle Sportshall at 9:00am for our first referee assignment of the day at 10:20. We played the winner of Koll Volley - Team Köge; again facing Koll Volley in the semifinals. Again, Dick reminded us to continue focusing on our individual goals rather than the results. As we approached the match, everyone's spirits started lifting and the energy was contagious.

Semifinals: Gislaveds VBK-Koll Volley: 25-14, 25-20

After a convincing first-set victory, you could feel the atmosphere change and relaxation set in, typical of a young team, I am the second-oldest at 25, with many new faces. It's fair to say that we were already looking past this match, on to the finals where we would meet Elit Serien foe and reigning champion Hylte/Halmstad. 

Finals: Gislaveds VBK-Hylte/Halmstad: 20-25, 10-25

In learning that we had won the coin toss for serve, I jokingly began chanting "first ace! first ace! first ace!" and when Lisa made not just one, but TWO aces to start the match, our team erupted in cheers and laughter. We continued on a 4-point run before H/H was able to get their first sideout. We continued back-and-forth throughout the set, but when one of their own servers went on a run, H/H took the lead, from which we never truly recovered. Despite our never-quit attitude and aggressive play throughout set one, we were unable to gain any momentum during the second, and final, set of the match. Our serve receivers had finally found their rhythm and were playing their most consistent of the tournament, but we followed many great passes with unforced errors. 

We concluded the tournament with a 4-1 record, taking home the silver trophy. Although we didn't end on a high note, there were a lot of individual improvements, which should be counted as the great successes they are. Each match provided us with some new areas of focus for practice, and gave many players much-needed confidence. Beyond the court, I think this tournament was a great opportunity for our team to hang out, and become closer friends. There are a lot of unique personalities on this team, most of which become enhanced and complimented by one another. This will probably be one of my most fun seasons of my career, and I could not ask for a better group of weirdos to share it with. 12-1.

Back row L to R: Lisa, Mikaela, Lina, Sanna, Mathilda
Kneeling L to R: Jollan, Emma, Stina, me
Front L to R: Amanda, Jessica

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