Tine Urnaut

Slovenia made a real splash in their debut in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League in 2021 by qualifying for the Finals in Rimini, Italy. The historic achievement was confirmed with a victory on the occasion of their captain Tine Urnaut’s 200th cap with the national team.

Before the start of VNL 2021 in Rimini, the Slovenians were happy and excited about their debut in the competition, but also promised to excel.

“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.

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 just 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.

“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.”

Slovenia went on to lose their 2021 VNL semifinal match against reigning world champions Poland, but finished at a remarkable fourth place for their first participation in the competition. With young stars including Rok Mozic also making their mark, they are a team to look out for in 2022 when they will again be at the VNL, and also at the FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship in Russia.