Luciano Vicentin spikes over Ben Patch and Georg Klein’s block (photo: Maximilian Franz)

Luciano Vicentin spikes over Ben Patch and Georg Klein’s block (photo: Maximilian Franz)

The best-of-five championship series in the German men’s Bundesliga started in the most spectacular way, with a thrilling five-set come-from-behind upset, and a promising outlook for the games to come.

With about four and a half thousands spectators on the stands at the Max-Schmelling in the German capital, VfB Friedrichshafen mastered a fantastic comeback from two sets down to upset hosts Berlin Recycling Volleys on Saturday and take the lead in the final playoff.

BR Volleys, who have won all Bundesliga titles since 2012, with 2015 as the only exception, and were on a 19-1 win-loss record in the league this season before the start of the championship series, were the favourites to win the final and retain the crown. However, with three of the five sets pushed into overtime, including the tie-breaker, Friedrichshafen celebrated a 3-2 (18-25, 25-27, 26-24, 25-21, 16-14) away victory and tilted the balance their way this weekend. They will now have the home court advantage in the second game to be played on Wednesday, April 20, at 20:00 local time at the ratiopharm arena in Ulm and a good chance to double their lead.

The hosts failed to convert the match point they had at 24-23 in the third set, with Friedrichshafen taking the next three rallies and the set. The Berliners were the first to reach match point in the tie-breaker set again, at 14-13. However, two video challenges and three points in a row later, the visiting side triumphed with the win.

With a 60% success rate in attack, Berlin’s American international Benjamin Patch produced a match-high 30 points, including three aces and a stuff block. Friedrichshafen’s Argentinean outside hitter Luciano Vicentin was his team’s best scorer with 21 points to his name, while Canadian Olympian Lucas Van Berkel impressed with eight kill blocks towards a 14-point tally. Unfortunately, during the same rally in the second set, BR Volleys’ American middle Jeffrey Jendryk and VfB’s Montenegrin outside Vojin Cacic sustained injuries and had to leave the court.

“Our team showed great fighting spirit and again it was our block that worked very well. It was clear that after Vojin's injury, the boys' thoughts were with him, but they recovered. However, we have to play better on Wednesday because Berlin won't simply accept this defeat.” Mark Lebedew, head coach of VfB Friedrichshafen
“Friedrichshafen appeared self-confident as expected. Even though we lost today, we played with passion and energy again. This match showed what it takes to win a final series for the German championship. Despite this defeat, we take away more positives than negatives. In the history of this duel, final series almost always have their ups and downs. We will keep believing in ourselves and will fight our way back.” Benjamin Patch, opposite of Berlin Recycling Volleys