Bulgaria: Preparing for the Olympics and the Future...

The following post is an article I posted on www.middlehitter.com originally on June 18, 2008. I posted it here on the blog as it has been moved to the website archives.

Bulgarian Coach Martin Stoev will mix his experienced and younger players throughout the 2008 World League competition. Bulgaria, who qualified for the 2008 Olympics with their Bronze medal finish during the 2007 World Cup competition, will rest their top players throughout most of World League. According to Coach Steov, “For the first 8 games of the World League I will give a break to the captain Plamen Konstantinov, the middle blocker Evgeni Ivanov and the opposite hitter Vlado Nikolov. After the first two matches against Spain in Varna I will let Matey Kaziysky go to a holiday.” The World League finals are being held July 23rd through the 27th in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This is just two weeks from the start of the Olympic competition (beginning August 9th).

Bulgaria had a strong showing in 2007, taking 5th place in the World League and winning the bronze medal in the World Cup. Bulgaria is currently ranked fourth in the World by FIVB, behind Brazil, Russia and the USA respectively. According to the FIVB team summary, “The year 2008 marks the 87th year since volleyball first arrived in Bulgaria. It all began in 1922 when, for a short time, Volleyball was hugely popular and became one of most practiced sports in Bulgaria… Bulgaria has more than 111 registered Volleyball clubs and over 5,500 Volleyball players from all age groups.”

Plamen Konstantinov (#17), Evgeni Ivanov (#1) and Vladimir Nikolov (#11) are the experienced veterans of the Bulgarian national team. Matey Kaziyski, who plays in the Italian Serie A with Trento Volley SPA, is considered one of the top outside hitters in the world. The 6'8" outside hitter is listed with a 12'2" spike touch. Captain Plamen Konstantinov the other outside wing spiker whose experience (over 400 caps) is very important for the team. Vladimir Nikolov, opposite, played on the Trento Volley SPA club with Kaziyski.

The World League rules require each national team to submit a roster of 19 players who can be used throughout the competition. During the preliminary inquiry, which usually occurs the day before the first match of the weekend, each team must submit their 12 player roster that will be used for that weekend’s two matches. The coach is limited to those 12 players during the two matches for that weekend. The 12 player roster can be changed from weekend to weekend as long as the 12 are from the original 19 list.

Coach Martin Stoev became head coach for Team Bulgaria in 2005. Coach Stoev started playing volleyball in 1984 and played over 200 matches for the Bulgarian National Team during the 1991 to 1999 time period. When Coach Stoev was asked about the competition in Pool C he responded: "This year our group for the World League is very tough and all the teams have their chances of winning. It is even more complicated since Bulgaria and USA are preparing for the Olympic tournament. We won the two matches against Spain in Varna, if we manage to take one victory on US ground this will give us a good base to attack the first place in the group." Stoev added, “If Bulgaria manages to qualify for the final six in Brasil we will go on that tournament with the younger players while the main team will be preparing for the Olympics.”

The World League began in 1990 with an 8 team format and has since grown to 16 teams. The Intercontinental round takes place over six weekends. The teams are split in four - 4 team pools and each team will play two matches against the same team (from their pool) on separate days over the same weekend (Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday). There are three weekends at home and three away resulting in a total of 12 matches for each team during this round.

Team USA will host Bulgaria during Week 2 (June 20th-21st) of the World League. USA will visit Bulgaria in final week (July 18th-19th) of regular competition. These matches, held in the Palace of Culture & Sports in Varna (Bulgaria’s third largest city) will most likely decide who will take first place in Pool C and advance to the Final Round of Six held in Brazil.


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