SPORTS

Iraklis misses out once again

For the second season running, Iraklis was unable to clinch victory in the final of European volleyball’s club-level Euroleague competition, this time going down to Italy’s Sisley Treviso in Rome yesterday with a 3-1 score. The Italian club was crowned European champion for the fourth time in its history. Iraklis qualified for the final with a fiercely contested 3-2 win over Russian team Locomotiv Belgorod in Saturday’s semifinal of the Final Four tournament staged in Italy. The Thessaloniki club had ousted the same Russian club in last year’s semifinal before eventually being deprived of a European title by French team Tours in the final. Greek clubs have played with the prospect of a European volleyball title on a number of occasions, but the distinction has remained an elusive dream. Besides Iraklis’s two failed attempts in finals, there have been another two by Piraeus club Olympiakos. Moreover, Greek clubs have reached European volleyball’s Final Four stage 11 times in total. The result of last night’s final was determined by fine details that tipped the balance of all four sets. Sisley Treviso clinched the opening set with a 25-23 score. Iraklis had gone ahead earlier (6-7 and 7-8) but the Italians managed to hold on. Iraklis nudged ahead early in the second set but the Italians overtook to maintain a slim but consistent lead until well into the second set. But Iraklis managed to take an 18-17 lead, which was never surrendered, for a final 25-23 score in the second set. Neither side was able to break free of the other in the following set, but Sisley Treviso was the more composed team in the set’s crucial closing stages for another 25-23 photo-finish result. Sensing victory with a lead of two sets to one, the Italians stormed into the fourth set to establish a psychologically valuable 5-1 lead early on. The Greek club’s skipper Marios Giourdas joined the action to help spur Iraklis to temporary recovery and the upper hand in the set at 6-5 and 8-7. The fourth and final set swung both ways, before the Italians held on for a 26-24 score and the European title.