Wednesday, September 30, 2015

GVK hopes to surprise

Gislaved is far from being a favorite.
This was clear after the elitserien clubs shared their predictions for the upcoming season. But from GVK's point-of-view, they are happy with the situation.
"I think we can surprise many," says newly signed Dutch player and one of the team's captains, Ester de Vries.
L-R: Team captains from EVS, Örebro, Hylte/Halmstad, Svedala, GVK
Erin Kirby, Aida Rejzovic, Jonna Wasserfaller, Camryn Irwin, Ester de Vries
A seventh-place finish and a defeat in the quarterfinals to league champion ended Gislaved VK's last season. Thus it is not surprising that the team was not selected as a favorite when the elitserien clubs gathered for its annual kick-off meeting.

"No, that was not surprising. But I would like to ask the other clubs to watch out for us, because I think we have much to give this year," says Daniel Magnusson, new head coach for the team.

When Magnusson stepped forward and presented their team, it was a lot about the fresh start the club has taken.

"We have cleared out and built new," described Magnusson.

Several profile players left the organization and they have been replaced with many young players from within the club. But there are also new acquisitions that stands out.

One of them is the Dutch outside-hitter Ester de Vries, who most recently competed in Switzerland. She stood as a team representative in Falköping during the kick-off meeting and she believes the team can take advantage of being an underdog.

"I think it is good that we are the underdogs. We have done well in pre-season, and I think we can surprise a lot once the league starts."

Magnusson (center) pictured with elitserien coaches
Among other things, the team defeated the reigning champion Engelholm and also won Knallecup in Borås. Magnusson is hopeful about the season and aims with a top-four finish, and even to reach the Grand Prix tournament.

"Finishing top-four is a realistic goal to where will we end up this year. But there are many teams that could end up there, and this year, there are no teams that are bad or any team that looks overwhelmingly unbeatable. It will be very exciting," says Daniel Magnusson.

Gislaved VK's season premiers away in Sollentuna on Saturday, October 3rd.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Bengtsson: "A richer experience"

Bengtsson (4) blocks with Elin Andersson (5) against RIG Falköping

National Team camp was a useful experience.
GVK-talent Terese Bengtsson looks back on an exciting weekend.
"Would be great to get the chance again," says 19-year-old.

When the U19 national team gathered in Falköping for a 3-day training camp, Gislaved VK's Terese Bengtsson part of the squad.

How was the weekend?
- It was exciting. We got to know each other first and were evaluated to see everyone's level. Then we trained as usual with four practice sessions.

Do you think you were in step with the others?
- Yes, I was hanging in nicely. I wasn't behind, and felt I was good with my volleyball level. So it was very nice.

Was there any difference compared to the game in the club?
- It was not quite the same pace, which is the biggest difference. In the top division, it's much faster.

What will you take from the weekend?
- I'm happy with just getting invited, so I will take with me that I reached the tryouts. Just to go there was an experience. To train with a new coach and meet new players.

Soon the season begins for elitserien, how is it feeling?
- I'm really psyched and the season will probably be really fun. It really feels like we are a great team who will help and support each other all the time.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Training weekend in Melbystrand

We went early Saturday morning south to Mellbystrand for our final weekend of team bonding before the elite series premieres on 3 October.

The weekend began with a three-hour morning practice, which proved tough after the long drive and early morning. It definitely shows that our team has had nearly three weeks of tough preseason training sessions and matches as we have intermittent low points, but are working to minimize these lulls between some great performances on the court.

Warming up against Svedala
Afterwards, we had a short break for lunch and fresh air before playing a friendly match against league opponent Svedala. The visiting team has some new talented Americans on their roster, and can be expected to be a tough opponent throughout the year. We were on our toes from the start, and despite trailing early in the the first set, managed to find our rhythm and win easily 25-15.

As the match continued, Svedala's performance improved with a quick offense, but second frame followed similarly to the first, 25-20.

It became more and more clear as the match rolled on that we had endured a long morning. Our bodies and minds dropped their edge, but Svedala maintained their energy and high-tempo, and pressured us more in serve receive. Daniel made a few line-up changes, but in the end we were unable to maintain our focus while the visitors sped up the pace of the game. 

We lost 18-25 in the third, and became more physically and mentally tired. In the fourth, Svedala again came out on top, 23-25 ​​in a well played set. In those situations, when we have more pressure to win, we need to be able to handle it mentally. They took the match with the final set of 10-15.

This was our first loss of pre-season, but Daniel is pleased with how we acted in the weekend. A great training against a strong opponent gave us our first reminder of what it takes to be in the top of the league: higher intensity, higher focus, and the ability to maintain confidence in tight situations.

That evening, we had more team bonding activities, highlighted by the Super 5-Kamp competition.

Many of you may be asking "What is Super 5-Kamp?" Well, here is a YouTube video that can shed some light into our team building activity. 

  • Swing-Rod: Swing and wiggle your hips to swing the ball away as far as possible, expertly demonstrated by Lisa.

  • Head Hunter: Catch the balls that your teammates throw. The intricacy is that you must catch the balls with a velcro "hat", see Emina's focused example here:

  • Stork Dance: Find the right eggs and spring back to your teammates. The difficult part of it all is that your face is covered by a large "stork's beak"; Hanna and Lina get down and dirty.

  • Jockey Leap: A hilarious relay race where you have to hold a stick between your knees; Mathilda shows us how it's done.

  • Kindergarten races: Collect them scattered tiles before the other team. Due to potential risk of injury, Daniel excluded this from our tournament.
Winning team of "Super 5 Kamp": Emina, Pauline, me, and Ester

On Sunday, we had another 3-hour training, before finally returning back to G-town. I am sure that I speak for everyone on the team when I say that we are MORE than excited to be starting our season on October 3. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Gislaved wins Knallecuppen in Borås

Hot, hotter, Gislaved VK. GVK went undefeated in this year's Knallecuppen preseason tournament.

"We have something good going on," says head coach Daniel Magnusson.

Gislaved Volleyboll Klubb has got its best possible start to the season.

Last week, the team beat reigning Swedish champions Engelholm, and during the weekend we followed GVK to their tournament in Borås - where they did not drop a single set.

"This [weekend] was great fun," says the team's new coach Daniel Magnusson.

He continues:

"During Saturday's group stage, I could use the whole team, and it was great to have all the players involved in our three victories. I think this shows that we have a great strength within the group for the tasks ahead."

In the group stage, GVK eliminated Norwegian Törnberg (26-24, 25-21) in their opening match, and followed that up with back-to-back wins against RIG Falköping (25-17, 25-15) and Norsjö (25-16, 25-23).

On Sunday, Norsjö would have a chance for revenge in the semifinals, but it was an easy win for Gislaved:

"We did a really good match in the semis and it won big over NVK (25-12, 25-9)," explains Daniel. "We were in top form and again I was able to use our entire bench."

In the finals, GVK faced Elitserien foe Lindesberg. A real measure of strength for Gislaved VK - and it was a tough final:

"It was tough, and we won a tight, well-fought match (25-23, 26-24). Right now, I feel that both I and the team have got a good proof that we are faring well in pre-season training."

This upcoming weekend GVK goes away for their second training camp in Melbystrand and have a scheduled training match against Svedala.

"This is another opportunity where we have the chance to work out some more details," explains Daniel Magnusson.

It should also be mentioned that GVK's Meghan Sherman was named the tournament's best player.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

GVK Beats Swedish Champs

Volleyball | Gislaved won the tight situation, when the match was on the line. Much different from last season.
Hanna Salomäki takes a point against the EVS block
"It is important to remember that it is a friendly match, but if we check what we're doing [in situations like this] we see our training is very very good. We were calm in our play, but we will not get a big headed confidence from this now and think that we are a finished product. We are not, and we have a long way to continue to work," said Daniel Magnusson after 3-1 win (25-23, 28-30, 25-19, 25-20) against Engelholm.

Anyway. The team looks to have come further than last pre-season this time of year.

So it seems.

The team felt a bit more mature, a little smarter, a little faster.

One thing is for sure, if Esther De Vries continues to play as sharp and if Hanna Salomäki plays as smart, then GVK's new pros will impact the overall development of the team.

Salomäki made sure to close the first set.

Engelholm block could not hold her smart attacks at 21-22, or 23-23, and not to 25-23 to end the frame.

The Finnish outside hitter also showed what she goes for the defensive. Variable, dynamic and committed.

She stepped up for her team at the end of the second set, but then EVS drew the long straw and won by 28-30.

In the third set, a Salomäki save just before hitting the floor resulted in an Esther De Vries kill, raising the GVK lead to 16-10. De Vries's network [blocking and attacking] contributed greatly to the home team, and GVK went on to win by 25-19.

GVK ran home with fourth set fairly easily, 25-20.

The sloppiness was evident in both teams in terms of serving, and the timing was not always the best.

But it looked good for being the first training game of the season.

Daniel Magnusson was cautiously optimistic, but realistic.

"I am satisfied but we still have much to work on."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

GVK in Danish-Swedish Initiative

This year, a new volleyball league has formed, called Öresundsliga.

The league, includes Gislaved together with Swedish elitserien teams Engelholm and Svedala, as well as the Danish first-league teams Holte, Amager and Brøndby. The six teams will meet in two matches (one home and one away) and the winner of the league will take home the championship.

"There is little difference than the national leagues except that we get to meet some new players. Denmark has really good teams so it is beneficial for all of us, and it gives it a little something special to the season," say GVK's sports director Lars Englund.

Setting the tone, or the catalysts was Fredrik Tågsjö, sporting director in Engelholm.

"There has been a previous collaboration between the Danish and Swedish clubs in the past where Gislaved not participated, but there has been little loose foundation."

"We quickly decided on six clubs. Hylte/Halmstad turned down the invitation early, then it was natural for us to ask Gislaved [with their proximity]. Everyone wanted to have more matches on the season without too much sacrifice [regarding travel and expenses]."

The leagues designed so that matches between the Swedish teams will be those set from the Swedish elitserien regular scheduled meetings between the teams. Wins and loses will be included in both the Elitserien and the Öresundsliga.

In the current situation, it is no business gain with the formation of the new league. Perhaps in the future.

"Hopefully it does not cost us much. We believe that in the long term, we have created a product to they can provide revenue back. We have not had time to get their claws into this but we have seen that it existed in our economic margins. The goal is to get a following from the towns and within the region the first year and build the support."

For Gislaved, who already has a tough time with money, it can be tough. But Englund believes in it.

"It's an alternative source that can give us new results. We are working hard on our sponsors and hope to get some more interest when you present something like this.We hope to gain interest from the tourist industry and plan to discuss more with them, since we do not know how the municipality agrees to help with possible contributions," says Englund.

But there are still three fairly expensive trips to Denmark in addition to what you already have. How are you going there?
"Economically it is tough but we are not traveling with a large staff. It will be the cheapest possible with sponsored minibuses."

The trips require the players to take time off from their jobs well.

"There will be some Friday evenings lost. When we play matches in Denmark at 19:00 then we go at lunchtime. Players do not have a replacement financially for lost earnings. So there will be some sacrifices but we hope that the adventure trumps it."

They hope, as I said, for sponsors but also plan to host events that will generate revenue for the club.

"Now we have the opportunity to apply for the U16 Championship and the U18 Championship. We hope that we get approved and contact the municipality for possible schedules that are available to host the tournament. It is there we hope we can get a little money."

All in all, however, the Öresundsliga is something positive for GVK, according to Englund and Tågsjö.

"This will be little interest in raising the public awareness and bait in the sponsors, while drawing a bit more interest to girls and boys that play," says Englund.

"Everyone is favorable to more matches and more exposure for the sport. There is nothing in this that is negative!"