Al Rayyan are hoping to end a disappointing season on a winning note by winning the prestigious Emir Cup Volleyball at the Qatar Women’s Sports Committee Indoor Hall in Aspire Zone today.
The Lions have failed to win a single title this season, but their coach Carlos Schwanke is eager to make up for that with the win in the final against arch-rivals Al Arabi.
“We are motivated for the final and hopefully we will put up a good show and win the title to end the season on top. I am sure the Emir Cup win will erase all disappointments,” Schwanke said.
“We lost the Qatar Cup final to Arabi, but this time we are better prepared after winning the best-of-three semifinal playoffs in straight games and got some extra days to recover for the important final,” said Schwanke, who remains confident that his team can finish the year with a flourish against in-form Arabi.
“We have a new combination this time as our new professional player Serbian Milos Nikic has joined us. We are ready for the final battle. We have displayed fine team work in the playoffs and have confidence that my boys will do it again in the final,” the Brazilian said.
The 31-year-old wing-spikes Nikic is a top professional player, who has played for several European teams and played in the strongest of volleyball leagues. He was also part of the Serbia’s gold medal winning team from the 2011 European Championship.
On the other hand, defending champions Arabi are aiming for picking up their fourth domestic title of the season and their third successive Emir Cup.
Al Arabi coach Patrick Duflos is also well aware of the fight in the final, admitting they have to play a tough game against a motivated and better-prepared Rayyan this time.
“It will be a tough and long final as we are playing against a better-looking Rayyan this time. They have had more preparation time and have a very seasoned professional player in Nikic this time. They will be more motivated to win this time after not winning anything this season,” he said.
Talking about his team’s preparations, he said, “We are happy to be in the final and will put up a great fight again.”
Talking about their losses to Arabi in the Qatar Cup and Super Cup finals, captain Osmel Camejo said, “We are ready for the final against Arabi once again and hope this time we will beat them. We were disappointed after losing Qatar Cup final to them, but I think we are well prepared this time.”
Besides, Qatar Cup and Super Cup, Arabi won the season-opening Federation Cup, defeating El Jaish.
After that there was an alarming dip in their form which resulted in them finishing third in the Qatar League and fifth in the GCC Clubs Championship.
However, with the inclusion of outside hitter Taylor Sander, a member of America’s bronze-winning squad in Rio, and Germany’s pro Gyorgy Grozer, Arabi are at their best.
Grozer, who was the highest score for the Reds in the Qatar Cup final, is excited to play yet another final against Rayyan.
“I am excited to play another big final against Rayyan. I think we are playing well as a team and determined to win the Cup,” said the German star.
Rayyan, who finished fourth in the Qatar Volleyball League, defeated El Jaish in the semi-finals 2-0, while 21-time champions Arabi defeated Qatar League champions Police 2-0 in second semi-finals.
The final is slated for 6.30pm today.
Qatar Volleyball Association officials pose with Al Rayyan and Al Arabi players and officials ahead of today’s Emir Cup final. PICTURE: Jayaram