Daria STEPANOVSKAYA: “the climate in the team is an important factor in our success”

In women’s volleyball club “Chemist” (South) there is a tradition to interview the captain of the team at the end of last season. This tradition was started in 2010, and it is constantly adhered to here, except for three seasons when Daria Stepanovskaya good reason not played for the team. In 2020, even due to the lack of the final phase of the championship of Ukraine, to talk about what it was too rich it turned out the season and contribution to the success of the team itself Darya, especially in the first part of the season, was significant.

Darya, last season was not dissimilar to the previous one in the history of “Chemist”. First, it was not completed, and secondly, again for the first time, the team participated in the group stage of the Champions League. How this season turned out for you personally?
– First of all, for me and for the whole team, probably, the season has been very eventful. Perhaps the first such in my career. From October to February, the schedule was very tight game for the championship and the Ukrainian Cup and Champions League, and everywhere it was necessary to solve tournament problems. There was a sense of constant tension.

– In the offseason the team has been significantly updated, as the team left four players of the basic structure. What were your expectations from the new season?
– Understand that networking takes a lot of time. Not all at once happened that showed the tournament in Belarus, where we lost in three games “Northerner”. But as they say, for a broken two unbeaten give. Joined new link Olga Skrypak, which need time to feel each attacker. Plus the style of play Oli was different, say, from the manner Elena Apalkova that were here in the previous season, it quickly passes. Therefore, the pattern of play we have changed, though, and before the binder is required to play quickly. Over time, we have good began to happen: we found an approach to each other, felt each other, sometimes showing very good performances at the national arena, in the Champions League. Even in group matches of the tournament, where we previously, as you know, is not performed. The only few that have managed to oppose the Italian “Novara”. And so, overall, looked decent in the Champions League. We are after all quite a bit not enough to win, had no experience in such tournaments, in comparison with our rivals.

– What mood was the season for you personally, what goals were set?
In recent years I have become accustomed to the fact that most come out to replace, although at the end of last season managed to show themselves in the first team, including in attack. So treat with understanding to any decision of the coach, although, of course, in the training process are laid out as much as possible, hoping to play. Understand that young players need to play as it is tomorrow “Chemist”. Of course, I want to play more often in the starting lineup, as it is a very different feeling than when you go with the “benches”.

– How unexpected was the exit in the diagonal in the first match with the Croatian “Mladost” in the second round of the Champions League?
– The output at this position was not a surprise, because in this role I finished previous to this season. Plus in the training process I were playing as in “two” and “four”. The head coach is trying the different variations. The coach of “Chemist” have a plan a, plan b and even a plan C. What happened in the match with the Croatian team. First, in the diagonal left Oksana Yakovchuk, then Jack Haber. I appeared already in the third game. The set we have now the most successful in the match. In the end, making analysis of the first game, the coaching staff came to the conclusion that I should play in the starting lineup in the return leg.

– When left in the third game of the match in Zagreb, was very nervous, after all first played in the Champions League?
– The excitement, the adrenaline rush is the normal state for any athlete. They are, in one degree or another are always present. Then went onto the court with a cool head, was just trying to do what she could.

– What happened in Zagreb as you think?
– We then smeared the reception, why floated and the whole picture of the game – we could not organize a normal attack. But you have to give credit to the opponent that the house is very nice served. Already then, analyzing the girls games in the Champions League, came to the conclusion that “Mladost” in his home game, gave the highest level of quality among our competitors – a very strong airframe. However, we knew that this team can play and the opponent is within our reach. Just in Zagreb we have a little what happened. Croatian volleyball players made us make mistakes. In the end, we showed in the South a great game. Just in one breath. Came out, bombed and left. Here is the impression of a return match with “Youth”.

– The question to you as to the captain. How to achieve such a being very focused, superconcentrate, because you also play a certain role?
– Well, this issue is a big part of the captain and experienced players like Tanya Kozlova, Olya Skrypak, Katya Frolova. First of all, we sprinkled ashes on his head after the defeat in the first match, as he understood that the opponent is within our grasp. Yes in any game is configured to show a maximum, even with the giants. We supported each other in the locker room constantly talked about it. Plus incredible motivation added to our fans. Then, the atmosphere in which took place in the European competitions last season, is just phenomenal. To play in a crowded, “Olympus”…. It is words not to transfer. Full body chills from the fact that the whole room just rattles, does not silence even for a second. Once again motivate in such an atmosphere is not necessary. We’re primarily for people playing. Such games are getting a huge pleasure. In such an atmosphere just do not have the right to play badly. Our home games against the Champions of Croatia and the Czech Republic turned out just crazy, as the intrigue remained until the last. I’m sure the fans have a lot of fun. Especially from the result achieved in this incredible struggle.

– Talk about the fans. Or rather, about your main fan – son Artyom, who last season missed, if I am not mistaken, not a single home match. How important to you his support?
This is a very important moment for me. I feel his support, and Arthur himself is very serious about this, he even has a t-shirt with my name and number. When I go to the games, he always says, “Mom, don’t lose”. He is very worried and very sensitive to defeat, crying when we lose. Trying to explain that the opponent was stronger – this applies to European matches. We are in the last season lost at home three times, “LKS”, “Stuttgart” and “Novara”. After these games in the eyes of Artem were full of tears. Of course, I feel its support, is an additional motivation for me.

One of the most brilliant victories of the season have seen your son, and the two thousand fans that filled “the Olympus”. Mean return match of the third round of the Champions League with Czech “Olomouc”, which lasted for six sets. How did you manage to recover after losing three consecutive sets to snatch victory in the “Golden set”?
– The match was very, very heavy. Language does not turn to say that we relaxed. Just at some point stopped to get something. Well and, certainly, the opponent changed something in their game. We stopped to finish off, the error appeared. For a long time we fought with themselves, looking for their game, which we had in the first two games, but we lost. In the end, on morally-strong-willed, on the veins, on the nature of we won the hardest victory.
Heard the opinion that “you were bound to win, “Olomouc” the three parties”. But in sport there is no such thing “should”. Especially because on the other side are a quality team, which was also seriously motivated exit in the group stage and applied to this effort.

– 5:5 after two matches and 15:13 in the “Golden set.” There’s not even felt you were the better team. Right?
– Absolutely. Two equal teams. The character differently and not say. From last forces. Remember unreal fatigue after the match. Even the consciousness of victory did not immediately. Exhaled, and the strength to rejoice, even just to go there. This is not surprising because we played six sets, thus losing the fifth. Because in addition to physical forces such matches squeeze you and emotionally. You’re just devastated. The feeling that you have somehow holding you back. And when you lose, you’re devastated.
And then you just won and reached the group stage of the Champions League, where we’ve never played. It’s just happiness. Happiness as it is. The Champions League group stage is, after all, another level, among the contenders presents the team with the name, regalia, namely the winner of the Champions League in the face of “Novara”.

– How many days came to the game with “Olomouce”?
Physically of emotionally – a lot more. Although the winners again, recovery is much faster.

– Just in time for the super Cup game and recovered?
– Yes, approximately. Came out his fighting staff and won a landslide victory. A working victory, which also gave positive emotions. Of course, to some extent, kept in mind and the group stage of the Champions League. We are always so: through the game at nationwide arena, preparing for the competition by modeling some moments, and then, thanks to the experience gained in the international arena, to achieve success at the end of the season.

– Let’s return to the Champions League. After losing in the opening game of the group stage in Italy, “Khimik” confidently started the next game with the champion of Poland “LKS”, sweep 2:0. But …
– Very difficult debut match in the group of the Champions League, in which we can say that the exam such giants as “Novara”. We were very worried, but fear was not, after all, no one had ever been killed volleyball (laughs). Yes, the opponents were superior to us in the growth of data, but nobody forbids to fight. It is a sport and until the final whistle sounded, we must fight.
We always want to win even against strong opponents and are seriously preparing for this game before the video. Although sometimes the video is deceptive. Sometimes the impression that the opponents were simply unbeatable, and you come to the site and it turns out it is treatable. Sometimes Vice versa. But, in any case, no matter how good the opponent is, we are also trained, we are also getting ready, and we also want to win. And maybe in this match, the Polish team was not initially expect from us such pressure.
The key moment of the game was the release experienced of a diagonal Isabel Kowalinski, with which we completely failed, unlike, say from the main diagonal, which we covered, as the implementation of the attack she was lower than usual. But Kowalinski scored almost everything she was given. Lost it either on the unit or in protection.

– After two defeats in the Champions League hands down?
– In any case. I really wanted to prove himself at a new level, and most importantly, first win. And because they could. And with the Polish team, and against Stuttgart at home when I was very close to having to play a tie-break, but not finished off their balls when the score was 24:20. Unfortunately, in volleyball it happens. Moscow “Dynamo”, for example, in the same situation lost “Gangnam”. And this is not an isolated case. How not to remember how “Vakifbank” lost the semi-final of “Conegliano” at the club world Cup, winning in the fifth set 14:10.
We wanted to give our fans that first, historic victory. Was close, but failed. Hopefully, next season, it will be able to do.
Of course, in order to succeed in competition, to glorify our country in the international arena, it is necessary that the internal calendar has contributed to it. In Europe, for example, playing one match per round, and we have, for a long time, two, and then, after a few days, we have a Europa League match. Well, if your home, but if the flight. And after three or four days, re-paired the round, or worse, stage of the Cup of Ukraine, as it was in November. In General, I believe that the “Chemist” makes no sense to play in the early Cup stages.
Of course, it’s hard to adjust the calendar under one command, and not have to do this. But to consider the calendar with European matches would not hurt. Volleyball team after all not robots. I had to hear say, “Chemist” as a sluggish plays on the national stage. I want to respond: “And you play this graph”. It is good that at the request of the club we did the shifts in November and December, and the schedule was just crazy.

– The arrival of Anne of Eliseenkova shook your position in the first team and you were more likely to get a replacement. How did that go?
– It is normal. It is clear that to us that was not enough height on the block, and the attacking potential of Ani is much higher than mine. This strengthening was necessary for the team. And to get the result, and for the associated rotation. So that’s the decision the coaching staff was absolutely understandable and logical.
In General, I think that the rotation in our team last season was very competent, which is confirmed by the victory in the Ukrainian Cup. Khimik, in fact, the only team of the Ukrainian Superleague, which is almost equally involve all players. To achieve the result in the matches of championship and Cup of Ukraine, not counting the “Final four” could be used absolutely any variation of composition. Thus, the load is again distributed between all players and the main players approach the final games in the best condition. While the calendar that we had in the last season, otherwise it was impossible to act. If you play the same volleyball team, starts, stress injuries because of overload, because of excessive fatigue. And the coaching staff save, for example, Tanya Kozlov, so she could play in decisive matches of the Final four of the Ukrainian Cup. The result you know.

– In the final games of the Cup of Ukraine you out a replacement. For you was this tournament?
– It was very exciting, as we are already in the semifinals, met with his main rival “Prometheus”, which, moreover, played at home. Match, as you saw, it’s nervous, the bowl of scales was inclined in one direction and then the other. Only on a tie-break we put the squeeze on the opponent, although this could be done in four games. I had to hear what we say, luck, but it is very true that the strongest wins.
The match indeed turned out to be very cool, for the fans and the teams. These games have not been in Ukraine. Of course, much harder to watch such games. When you’re in the area, are included in the work, the excitement goes away.

A final advantage in the match with “Prometheus”, there remained only two points. Due to what still “Chemist” won?
– At the expense of cohesion at the expense of character. The character in the first place, I think. Although terms such victory a lot. In the fourth game we did not use the match points, but didn’t give up. One of the key points, once again confirming what I have said about the nature, occurred on a tie-break, in the end. In one scene, Tanya Kozlova got incredible ball air travellers departing outside the yard, we barely moved. Immediately attack and Katya Frolova blocks to his namesake Angelica. And then there was the flow of the Oil Skrypak. And pile-on …
We always fight until the end, do not lose heart when something goes wrong, and in key matches this brings us victory. It happened in the game with “Prometheus.” We believed in your victory. And, of course, thank you to the fans – without them it would be much more difficult.

– How, in General, played in Kamenskoye?
– A great game. The fans of both teams created a truly sporty ambience. Crazy support from our fans, the local fans, in turn, supported their team. The game was at a high level in terms of culture is sick. But the awarding of this culture is just not enough. Winners customary to greet with applause, not Boo. This is a normal tradition in the world. It was frustrating when during the ceremony there was a rumble of disapproval.
A different picture was, for example, in Poland when we played with the “LKS”. But in Poland volleyball is known to be the number one sport. I wonder what the “LKS” fan section at football and volleyball the same. During this match, they imagine, have sat down for a second. A constant rumbling noise. To play in such an atmosphere is a pleasure. The fans are friendly, welcoming. After the match, thanked for the game, both in Poland and in Germany. Abroad sick including the beautiful game, although, of course, first and foremost, for their team. In Stuttgart after the game we passed through the hall, where they have cafes, we applauded – it was very nice.

– MVP of “Final four” was recognized volleyball player from Prometheus, who took third place, Ekaterina Dudnik. Who would you give the prize?
– It’s difficult to talk for the entire tournament, as the finals were carried out on fatigue. This game is bright failed. But in the match with “Prometheus” I would like this prize gave our binder Olha Skrypak. She met very well. Everything was played like clockwork. But there is a tradition in the world of volleyball is to give a prize to the best snipers.
In the final, again, the girls were very hard, so a lot of the force took the semifinal. So I was match with “Prometheus” is perceived as final, no offense to the “Galychanka” will said, though Ternopil team really stepped up last season.

– You as the captain is given the honourable right to be the first to lift the trophy over his head. It’s a special feeling?
– Of course. Every trophy is something special, every trophy of roads in their own way. And this time too, after the victory in the Cup got us harder than ever. Accordingly, the emotion of joy is much more than usual.

– It was a shame not to finish the championship of Ukraine?
– Of course. After all, this title could be the tenth for us. We were prepared, we were motivated to battle in the final tournament. We have a whole training after the Cup final, as you know, was built with an eye on the second stage of the championship of Ukraine. If we managed to win the title, it would be one of the most productive seasons in the history of “Chemist”. To win three trophies and reach the group stage of the Champions League – this has not happened. Not enough beautiful finish.
Players who joined the team during the season, and Anya Eliseenkova, and Kez brown perfectly fit into the team and game plan, and in the human that showed the Final four of the Ukrainian Cup. We were ready to put an exclamation point this season… But won this season coronavirus. The health of the people, of course, important.

Darya, you spent your 16th season for Khimik, eighth in the super League. Than sample team season 2019-2020 different from teams in other seasons?
It’s hard to say what was different. I remember our first Champions and I can say that it was the perfect combination of experience and youth. This season has also turned out this combination, but I had already moved to the status experienced. Except for me, Tanya Kozlova Katya Frolova, Olga Skrypak, despite his young age, already experienced, Yulia Boyko, who in the last two years is the leader of the attack team.
A good atmosphere has always been the hallmark of the “Chemist” is a common feature of yuzhnensky team at all times. In my opinion, this is one of the most important factors of success. In any difficult situation there’s just something about the cut of the season, or lose, we always got together and discussed this situation. And just occasionally communicate outside the hall. For example, we celebrated pancake day, and with our Legionnaire Kez brown, for which, of course, this holiday was unusual. Partake, so to speak, to our traditions. Never has there been such that we did not take on such gatherings – all of us together. It happened that, going the experienced players in the dressing room and hot on the trail discussing what went wrong.
I think that friendly staff is what helps us fight for titles. Mutual support is always present in “the Chemist”. From experienced players always have a clue though, it happens that the desired and shake. Not to relax. Young player as well as experienced, needs to give their best and, of course, to progress.

– What counsel can you give to young people of “Chemist”?
– The main thing is not to let go, when something does not work, it’s also a learning experience. You should be able to get out of difficult situations. You should constantly motivate himself to strive for the best designs, and it is, therefore, to give my all not only in games but also in training. The game is an indicator of how you have worked during the period of training. And be sure to add sports rage. Then we get a player of good level. And, of course, no nature anywhere. There is a more emotional players, there are less, such a temperament, but the character needs to be.

– Well, the last question of our conversation. Your expectations for next season?
– Our expectations and objectives, the traditional “Chemist”, to win all national trophies. And in the Champions League will aim to win their first victory. The first season can be called a reconnaissance, now we have to win. Really want to play at this level. Except that it was a memorable holiday, it is in matches at this level and the player and the team are progressing much faster.

On materials of official site BK “Chemist”

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