Maritza deems mission against SSC not impossible

Mission not impossible!  This opinion seems to be the prevailing one among the players and the coaching staff of Maritza Plovdiv in the eve of their 2016 CEV Volleyball Cup clash with Germany’s Schweriner SC.  The two teams will face each other in Bulgaria’s second largest city on Wednesday for the first leg match in the eighthfinal stage of Europe’s second most prestigious club competition.

SSC has been the most successful club in unified Germany for the past quarter of a century and a regular participant in the European Cups, including the Champions League.  Before that, representing the German Democratic Republic under the name Traktor Schwerin, the team from the northern part of the country had won the European Champions Cup in 1978 and the Cup Winners Cup in 1977.  The squad of coach Felix Koslowski arrives in Plovdiv as the current leader of the standings in Germany’s strong domestic Bundesliga.

At the same time, for the champions of Bulgaria, the fact that they eliminated Belgium’s Dauphines Charleroi in the first round and qualified for this stage of the CEV Cup is already a big success - something that had not happened to the Yellows from Plovdiv in over two decades.  In 2015, Maritza achieved a historic golden treble, but in the new season coach Ivan Petkov’s team lost a league match against Levski Sofia at home and currently ranks second in the national championship.

Despite the obvious differences between the two sides, no one in Maritza’s camp feels like an underdog, while SSC’s mentor Koslowski refuses to recognize his team’s status of a favorite.

“I think we are well prepared and motivated to win,” says Maritza’s captain Ana Radicheva in an upbeat statement.  “I sincerely hope that we will emerge victorious from this clash.  The fact that our opponent is one of Germany’s strongest teams does not scare us, because we do not think they are stronger than us.  We will go out there and play our game.”

“We are eager to play this match not only because we want to test ourselves against a very serious opponent, but also because we want to achieve a result that will eventually help us eliminate this opponent,” comments coach Ivan Petkov.  “If we serve well and defend well, we have our chances to succeed.  It will be a tough match, but not impossible to win.  We are loaded with ambition and will to give our best, to play good volleyball and to please the fans that will come to watch us.”

“Maritza had a pretty good first round in the tournament, winning quite clearly against Dauphines Charleroi.  What we know about this team is actually not so much,” admits Felix Koslowski, the coach of SCC.  “Of course, we know the roster.  We know that it is a team, which is a good mix of experienced players and some good young players, second in the national league at the moment.  So we pay a lot of attention to this team.  Of course, our goal is to pass into the next round, and I believe it is the same for the club from Plovdiv.  So I expect it will be a tough match, hopefully in front of a full hall, and let’s hope for a good volleyball game.  It is difficult to say who the favorite is.  On paper, based on our club history and the fact that we played in the Champions League, maybe we are the favorites, but this does not count when you go to the court.”

The match between Maritza and SSC will take place at the Plovdiv University sports hall on Wednesday, December 9, starting at 18:00 EET.  Admission to the venue is free.  The match will be streamed live on BNT World here, BNT HD here and on LAOLA1.tv here.

Photo: Bonchuk Andonov