Celebrities Dominique Baeyens and Walter Engelen, winners of the Top Teams Cup with Knack in 2002, hope that Roeselare will write volleyball history again against Modena: “It will still be David against Goliath”

There are already many, but the club icon at Knack Roeselare still remains Dominique Baeyens. The Flemish-Brabander from Ternat was active as a player for four years and no fewer than fifteen seasons as a trainer-coach. He led Knack to victory in the Top Teams Cup in 2002 and was a co-commentator for Sporza in the first leg of the CEV Cup final in Modena last Wednesday. “To be honest, I’m a little speechless.” To get those words out of the mouth of a waterfall like Baeyens twice, you already have to pull off a tough trick. And Roeselare did that by winning 0-3 in Modena, the number three in the regular competition of the Italian SuperLega.

“I have already seen and experienced a lot in volleyball, but last Wednesday was one of the highlights”, Baeyens still enjoys. “I am very happy to have experienced it in person and will not soon forget that unique piece of art by Knack. It was simplicity in all its beauty. It all seemed so simple, so soberly executed, but to do that for three sets against a top player like Modena, you have to reach a very high level as a team. Perfection does not exist in sports, but the collective and individual performance of the entire Roeselare team came very close.”

“The 0-3 of Roeselare in Modena was simplicity in all its beauty”

Dominique Bayens

“In 2002 we won the Top Teams Cup, but I fully agree that the course back then cannot be compared in any way with what Knack already covered in this CEV Cup”, continues Baeyens. “We did surprise with a 1-3 win against home team and favorite Czestochowa in the then formula of a Final Four and took the cup with the same figures against the Portuguese Espinho. Not too big names, but it does look nice on the palmares. Roeselare is still the only Belgian club to ever win a European Cup. Point. Of course I hope that will change on Wednesday evening. Records are there to be broken. If Roeselare succeeds itself, that record will be doubled rather than broken. To achieve that, Steven Vanmedegael’s team will once again have to reach its very best level. They’ve done that so many times this season, why wouldn’t it work again now?”

Walter Engelen with the only European cup ever won by a Belgian club. — © VDB

The gold medal of the Top Teams Cup in 2002 was the last highlight of captain Walter Engelen, who retired that season after fourteen years with Knack. The new Johan Baetensas the late manager William Ingels baptized him at the time, his volleyball career at the highest level began in 1988 as a modest twenty-year-old substitute at Roeselare.

“Are you there again with your ‘Flop Teams Cup’? That was indeed a statement of mine, but completely taken out of context”, laughs Walter Engelen. “It had nothing to do with frustration because of my last season at Roeselare. My own level and that of the club then went in the opposite direction. I myself was over my top, while Roeselare’s was still to come. I only meant then that the best European teams from Italy, France and even Greece were not there in that cup. With Roeselare we had already won a bronze and two silver European medals. European Final Fours were not an exceptional performance. Only later did the major impact of that gold in Czestochowa become apparent, because it was the first time that a Belgian men’s team won a European cup and especially because it has remained unique for 21 years.”

“It would be very bitter if it still went wrong now. Like climbing Mount Everest and having to give up a hundred meters before the top”

Walter Angels

“What Knack is performing now must be estimated much higher,” Engelen continues. “In the then Top Teams Cup you didn’t have Modena or Piacenza, not even Maaseik. The series that my ex-club already achieved this season is nothing short of impressive. Was in Modena last Wednesday from max. That enjoying smile on the face of the Roeselare players compared to the grin of frustration at world top players such as Rezende or Ngapeth: fantastic! Although there is of course still the decisive second leg on Wednesday evening. A better starting position is not possible, but on paper it remains David against Goliath. The cup is far from Roeselare, although Knack does have a big psychological advantage in its own hall and after last week’s 0-3. It would be very bitter for everyone involved in the club if things still went wrong on Wednesday evening. Like climbing Mount Everest and having to give up a hundred meters before the top.”

With a little help from… Piacenza

Modena-Piacenza 0-3, Modena-Roeselare 0-3 and Piacenza-Modena 3-0. These are the results of the proud Valsa Group in the last three matches. Three optaters in a row, won zero sets and conceded nine. We do not suspect that Roeselare has made many friends in Piacenza after winning the golden set and the elimination in the semi-finals of the CEV Cup, but indirectly the Italians offer Knack a helping hand by ravaging Modena physically but especially mentally with two times a 3-0 around the ears.

“These disappointing results will certainly have an influence on Modena”, says a more than experienced ex-coach Dominique Baeyens. “Maybe something has broken with the Italians after those three heavy defeats in a row. Wondering if game distributor Rezende and co. can still muster the resilience now that their sense of honor has taken a serious hit in recent weeks.”

“The title in their own country is always the most important thing for an Italian team,” says Walter Engelen. “However, I don’t think Modena will miss out on the chance to win the CEV Cup because of that. Curious how Modena – with which mentality in particular – appears at the storage in the Tomabelhal.” (id)

The ‘golden set’ is ours

In recent years, in a volleyball match you can still triumph with a good starting position from the first leg, even in the event of a heavy defeat in the second leg, thanks to the golden set. Roeselare proved that twice in a row this season. In both the quarterfinals and the semifinals of the CEV Cup against Maaseik and Piacenza respectively, Knack took full advantage in its own Tomabelhal. The subsequent return match was lost 3-0 each time, but Roeselare put that right twice in the golden set. With ‘the golden set is ours’ and ‘no two without three’ they can refuel at Roeselare if things go wrong against Modena in the match itself, but winning two sets and winning remains the main goal.

“You can compare a golden set with a decisive penalty series in football,” says Walter Engelen. “It is not always the best team that ultimately triumphs. Knack has already done it twice on the move, why wouldn’t it work at home if necessary?”(id)

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