FIVB Volleyball Nations League rookies Slovenia qualified for the Finals of the 2021 edition. The historic achievement was confirmed with a victory on the occasion of their captain Tine Urnaut’s 200th cap with the national team.
Urnaut’s 200th cap lifts Slovenia to historic success
Mindset the most important thing in the team’s VNL campaign
Published 12:43, 25 Jun 2021
Before the start of VNL 2021 in Rimini, the Slovenians were just happy and excited about their debut in the competition, but also promised to try hard to excel in the tournament.
“We are happy that we can finally perform in the VNL for the first time, and we will try to do our best,” Tine Urnaut said back then.
During the team’s successful preliminary round campaign, the 2.00m-tall outside hitter insisted that their most important advantage did not come from a specific technical element, but from their “mentality – determination and motivation.”
On the last day of round-robin action, Slovenia had lost only three matches, but with France and Russia breathing down their necks, they were still in a must-win situation against Bulgaria in order to secure a spot in the semifinals. They claimed that win in straight sets, 3-0 (25-23, 25-16, 25-18), with 32-year-old captain Urnaut leading the team to victory and celebrating his milestone 200th appearance in the national colours.
“It's a big milestone for me to play my 200th match with the national team. I'm very happy and proud of this,” he said after the game. “And we managed to earn a very important victory, for me personally, but also of course for the whole team. We managed to qualify for the Final Four, which was our first goal coming here to the VNL. Again, our mindset was the most important thing.”
Tine Urnaut has been a key member of the Slovenian national team which has been so successful in recent years, winning two European Championship silver medals in 2015 and 2019, as well as an FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup gold in 2019. Urnaut was named on the Dream Team of EuroVolley 2015. He has also had a successful club career, peaking with a 2016 FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship bronze as a player of Italy’s Trentino Volley Trento.
Now he is eager for more, as Slovenia await their VNL semifinal against Poland on Saturday.
“First of all, we will try to rest as much as we can because it’s a tough competition,” he said. “And then, of course, we will do our very best to play the best volleyball we can and go to the final.”