Their own audience should carry the German volleyball players a long way at the European Championship preliminary round in Düsseldorf. In the first game there was an impressive foretaste – even if the national coach still sees room for improvement. “That was a small home advantage. But we need a lot more home advantage,” said Vital Heynen after the 3-0 win against Greece in front of 1256 fans.

His wish may come true. The Castello Düsseldorf is sold out against Azerbaijan on Saturday (8 p.m. / 3300 people are expected. The game against the top team from Turkey on Thursday will also take place in front of a full house.

Stigrot: “It was goosebumps on day one”

What can make a difference was shown on Thursday evening. In fact, the third set already seemed lost. But a German point, huge cheers. Two more points for equalization and the crowd whipped the team to victory. “It was goosebumps on day one,” said captain Lena Stigrot. Many friends and family members also came.

Coach Heynen saw the value of the support: “When we play like that, you always lose the third set.” The audience absolutely contributed to the catch-up race. “Especially the last sentence, where it was really difficult, where we noticed: oh dear, it’s swimming away from us a bit. And that’s where the audience carries it. Then you also noticed how happy we were about every point with the hall ‘ said Stigrot.

It was also important for the players that it was a clear victory in the end, because they were very nervous at the beginning. “Did you see my first serve? It was the highest serve of my life I think,” Stigrot said with a laugh. She also noticed some restlessness among her teammates at the first home European Championship for the team.

In addition, key player Hanna Orthmann was injured after just a few minutes. After landing after a point, she immediately signaled that she needed to be substituted. She felt something in her left knee and didn’t come back onto the field. Heynen looked extremely worried after the game: “It could be a Pyrrhic victory. Maybe we lost more today than we won.” Without Orthmann, in addition to their many points, a large part of the experience in the young team is missing.

An MRI should provide information about the severity of the injury. Even if the 24-year-old gave the all clear even after the game. It was a precautionary measure. “She’s doing a little better now. It was the shock at first,” said Stigrot.

Heynen: “Azerbaijan physically strong”

Like other failures in recent years, the team caught Orthmann’s departure together. “Hats off to the team performance. The team did it, not a player. That’s our style, that’s nice,” said the captain. Stigrot was positive about the fact that there was greater resistance in the third set. “It was a good rehearsal. The first sentences were perhaps a little too easy,” said the 28-year-old. This made it clear where there was still room for improvement, for example in block defence.

On Friday, the focus shifted directly to Azerbaijan, which Heynen considers physically very strong. Now the tactical plan is being worked out and slightly trained, said middle blocker Marie Schölzel. “Otherwise relax, rest, save energy, because the tournament is long.”