Israel waited 40 years for its women's volleyball team to make another appearance in the European Championship. However, the team's return to Europe ended yesterday with a third successive defeat by a continental powerhouse. This time it was the turn of the Czech Republic, which crushed Israel 25-11, 25-18, 25-16 - sending coach Arie Selinger and his players to do some soul searching.
The team failed to win a single set in three matches.
Project Selinger, the nickname of the investment to bring back the legendary coach and plow new resources into the squad, made great strides until this past year - but is now in trouble. After making the Final Four of last year's Euroleague, which consisted of eight teams, the team has struggled through both exhibition and official games.
"I expected a lot more, but we are probably not ready for this physical and emotional level," Selinger said yesterday after the loss. "It looks like it's too much for the girls right now, and that's disappointing."
Selinger said he and his staff had to think whether the sport in Israel was going in the right direction or if it was time to change tack. He said officials had to work seriously on the fundamentals, to form youth teams within the various associations. "Without this, the whole business won't hold up," he added.
The national team is in trouble because many of the players are veterans, and the players who grew up through the Wingate system have yet to integrate successfully into the team. "The girls who played here won't stay for another journey like this," Selinger said. "We'll meet with the professional committee and decide what to do. I don't want to discuss the future because I am not too optimistic."