Iraklis reaches final again

Defending champion Iraklis qualified for the national league’s volleyball final last night with a 3-0 victory over Olympiakos for a 3-2 win in their semifinal best-of-three playoff series. Iraklis had won the first two games in the series, but Olympiakos rallied to take the semifinal in yesterday’s fifth game. The Thessaloniki team, one of Europe’s most respected – with two Champions League finals appearances, this season and last – to prove it, will be shooting for its third successive domestic league title when it meets Panathinaikos in their best-of-five final series next week. «We’re satisfied to have reached the final. It was extremely difficult for us. We went ahead 2-0 [in the semifinal series] and thought all had ended. But we were wrong,» noted Iraklis player Marios Giourdas following last night’s match. «Like all big teams, Olympiakos had inner strength tucked away,» he continued. Iraklis won the opening set with a score of 25-16 before taking the other two, 25-20 and 25-17. As the top-placed team in home-and-away competition this season, Panathinaikos has earned the home-ground advantage for the final series. Should a fifth match be needed to decide the series, it will be played at Panathinaikos’s home ground. However, judging by results this season among the country’s three biggest clubs, Iraklis, Olympiakos, and Panathinaikos, Panathinaikos would do well not to assume its home-ground advantage will swing the pendulum its way. In 11 games contested among the three aforementioned clubs this season, only five went the way of the home team. In head-to-head competition between the two finalists, Panathinaikos won both encounters in home-and-away play, but Iraklis emerged victorious from the Cup Final several weeks ago. The best-of-five final series begins this coming Monday, at Panathinaikos’s home ground. Game Two is scheduled for Thursday, May 18. Game Three, again at Panathinaikos, has been scheduled for May 22. If additional games are needed to settle the series, they take place May 25 in Thessaloniki and May 29 in Athens.