To claim that the Rote Raben Vilsbiburg were served after the Bundesliga game against Münster last Saturday evening would not do justice to the level of frustration that was written on their faces. After the first division volleyball players lost 1:3 (21:25, 18:25, 25:23, 22:25), Vilsbiburg coach Juan Diego Garcia Diaz stared petrified at the celebrating guests. Captain Monika Salkute completed the required field interview with a emotionless expression. Top scorer Pauline Martin accepted her award as Vilsbiburg's most valuable player with the absolute minimum of sympathy that professionalism demands.
In front of the season's record crowd of 1,673 fans, the only formal question was whether Vilsbiburg would start the newly created intermediate round in seventh or eighth place. The fact that Münster overtook Vilsbiburg and the Raben start from eighth place is not dramatic. In the said intermediate round, 18 points are up for grabs in the lower four-team relay, with three out of four teams qualifying for the playoffs. Since the insolvent Neuwied, bottom of the table, has been eliminated from the game, Wiesbaden, Münster, Vilsbiburg and Aachen will go into the double intermediate round with a point bonus staggered in three-point increments, meaning Vilsbiburg will have three points in its account.
In fact, the duel with Münster, who had previously been ninth in the table after seven games without a sense of success, also had a – perhaps much more important – psychological significance: it was supposed to end a negative series of seven defeats in a row, of which nobody in Vilsbiburg really ordered a second season. However, it was clear from the start how hard the team is suffering from its crisis in results and the thin staffing level due to outside attacker Anna Spanou being out for the season. The team struggled, but for a long time didn't seem as if they believed they would leave the field feeling successful. “We have to make better decisions in important situations and remain confident,” complained Salkute, adding: “It's not easy because the pressure is on us, but we have to be stronger in moments like this.”
Vilsbiburg did well, which doesn't help much in terms of sport in view of the second round
As in almost all of the previous second half of the season, it was by no means the case that Vilsbiburg was clearly inferior. In the third round they held up constantly, which is why Münster couldn't develop. There were signs of a similar trend for a long time in the fourth set, until what managing director André Wehnert recently summarized as follows: “After a chain of errors, we are not confident enough to continue playing calmly, which often loses us in what we have already worked on.” Salkute mourned the realistic possibility of forcing Münster into a deciding set. “I have the feeling that we didn’t use the momentum when we had it,” she said, basically describing the dramaturgy of the entire Vilsbiburg main round.
Judging by their sporting quality, Vilsbiburg is not far away from fifth and last place in the upper intermediate group. At least significantly less than the ten points behind Suhl suggests. On a sporting level, however, Suhl had fewer outliers. Apparently even more so on an administrative level: it was only immediately before the last day of the main round that the Volleyball Bundesliga (VBL) imposed the draconian penalty of six points deducted against the Thuringians. The reason is violations in the licensing process. The fourth-placed Potsdam received the same penalty, and the sixth-placed Wiesbaden had three points deducted.
If you take into account that in professional sports it is primarily financial issues that determine sporting development or stagnation, this accumulation of penalties is somewhat unpleasant news. Because it shows that violations of the rules are punished – but at the same time that they are not an exception. However, Vilsbiburg's certainty that it has done solid business is of little use for the second round. It starts next Saturday with a home game against ninth-placed Aachen. And the next chance to end a negative series for which Vilsbiburg is actually too well staffed.