The players of Team Montenegro look forward to their third straight participation in CEV EuroVolley Men. The preparations in Kolašin have been running in full swing for almost a month, with intense training sessions and two test matches against Israel.
The Balkan players performed well by registering a victory and a defeat in a total of 10 sets played against one of the organisers of EuroVolley 2023.
The contribution of the younger players is especially a source of joy, with the youngest – the middle blocker of Jedinstvo, Nikola Djurović (17), drawing a lot of attention. In the first match, he was part of the lineup that completed a comeback from 0-2, scoring six points in the process. In the second match against Israel, he also played a prominent role at the net, ending the game with six points to his name.
“I received a lot of trust from the coach in the matches against Israel, and I hope I lived up to his expectations. The feeling was great, being on the court with more experienced and skilled players is truly an honour for me. I am relatively satisfied with my performance, and with a few corrections pointed out by the coach, I shall become even more competitive,” said the modest young player from Bijelo Polje.
Nikola is a gem of Montenegrin Volleyball, who, along with a few other juniors and younger seniors, is gaining valuable experience from their more seasoned teammates. He emphasises that every moment spent with the national team means a lot to him.
“Being the youngest member, it is my duty to respect the older players. Through my dedication and work ethic, I try to help both the coach and my teammates. The time I spend with the national team means a lot to me, not only for the experience I gain but also for the individual progress that will greatly benefit my career,” said Nikola.
Djurović represents a significant promise for the future and is an important piece of the puzzle for head coach Ivan Joksimović, who has embarked on a process of rejuvenating the team and creating a selection that has been rewarded with a spot in the European Championship as a testament to their talent and hard work.
There is a clear and significant progress in Nikola’s game, who was not even in contention for making the junior team not long ago, and now he is on the verge of competing at the senior European Championship.
“The improvement in my game is definitely the result of hard work, effort, and dedication during the previous season. With the selfless help and daily commitment from my club coach, Darko Prebiračević, there has been a tremendous improvement in my game. I also cannot forget my teammates who have always been there for me, and I thank them on this occasion,” said Djurović. He is excited to have the opportunity to learn from teammates like Blažo Milić and other experienced national team players.
“We all know that the European Championship is a showcase of the best, and it is a great honour and pleasure to be among the best at the age of 17. Making it among the top 14 is not a small feat, and I am giving my all and hoping for the best. Sharing the volleyball court with some of the best players and teams in the world is a dream come true for me, and it provides space for further progress.”Nikola Djurović
For the third time in its history, Montenegro will play in the EuroVolley and compete in Pool C in Skopje. Besides the hosts North Macedonia, their rivals will include the winners of the recently concluded Volleyball Nations League, Poland, as well as the Netherlands, Czechia, and Denmark. The goal is to be among the top four teams and secure a spot in Bari for the Round of 16, where Montenegro would face one of the teams from Pool A, consisting of Italy, Serbia, Germany, Belgium, Estonia, and Switzerland.
“As I have mentioned, the European Championship is a showcase of the best, and it will be a real challenge to fight for a spot in the second phase. However, despite our youthful lineup, the quality we possess gives us optimism, and I believe that we can take a step further compared to our previous performances and advance to the second phase of the competition,” concluded Djurović.
The European Championship, which is played not only in North Macedonia and Italy but also in Israel and Bulgaria, will take place from August 28 to September 16. Ivan Joksimović’s team will have their first match at the Boris Trajkovski Sports Centre on August 31 against the Netherlands.
The opportunities for victories that could lead to the knockout phase lie in the second and third rounds (September 2 and 3) against North Macedonia and Denmark.
Before the journey to Skopje, Montenegro will have two more test matches against the Japan B team on August 23 and 24 in Kolašin.