Justine Juyad

Slovenia overcomes gritty Netherlands to pull off a gutsy dominant finish, 25-20, 32-30, 25-22, in 2023 FIVB Volleyball Men's Nations League preliminaries at MOA Arena, Pasay City on Sunday afternoon. 

Photo Courtesy of Volleyball Nations League

By being tougher than the Dutch squad down the stretch in all sets, World No. 9 solidified their quarterfinals berth after securing their eighth win along with their four losses. Slovenia, with the win, also placed in the seventh seed at the expense of the former eighth placers.

"This was the most important for us. Eight victories was great and now we are already looking forward for quarterfinals," Slovenian captain Tine Urnaut stated in an interview. "I think it will be difficult but we can manage to go in final four."

Urnaut led his team in scoring, finishing with 14 points with 12 coming from attacks, followed by Klemen Čebulj and Rok Možič who scored 13 and 11, respectively.

The Slovenian netters made it look easy securing the first set as their opponents committed ten errors in the opening set. However, the Dutch found their tempo in the second set as they got an early three-point lead behind Abdel-Aziz Nimir's impressive attacks.

Slovenia did not allow the Netherlands to fully flip the script as Možič scored back-to-back service aces for a 6-0 run, giving them a 21-17 advantage. 

Nimir and the Netherlands did not lose their fighting spirit immediately and answered back with their own 6-0 run for a two-point lead, 23-21.

Both teams went back and forth that led to multiple deadlocks, but it was Slovenia who took the hard-fought set win after the Netherlands committed a costly error. 

Slovenia then took full control of the third set, protecting their momentum without giving Netherlands a chance to bounce back.

Despite leading all scorers in the game with his 22, Dutch captain Nimir fell short in carrying his team back in the quarterfinals after the loss to Slovenia. 

Slovenia will go up against the World No. 1 and final round hosts Poland in quarterfinals on July 19 at Ergo Arena, Gdańsk, Poland.

Edited by Jostle Doen Pilayre