Chiaka Ogbogu stuffed as many as 12 blocks in a single three-set match to highlight this week’s CEV Champions League Volley 2021 action, which offered five round-robin tournaments in the two genders from Tuesday through Thursday.
The women’s teams of A. Carraro Imoco Conegliano and Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul and the men’s teams of Grupa Azoty Kedzierzyn Kozle, Cucine Lube Civitanova and Zenit Kazan topped their pools undefeated ahead of their second tournaments next year.
Women’s Pool B in Treviso
Reigning club world champions A. Carraro Imoco Conegliano who hosted the Pool B tournament in Treviso went through their three matches building an impeccable record of three straight-set wins. What could have been a titanic clash between the two unbeaten teams, Imoco and 2010 club world champs Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul, turned out to be a 71-minute one-sided affair. The home side hammered out an emphatic 3-0 (25-14, 25-19, 25-19) victory to follow up on the shutouts of Slovenia’s Calcit Volley Kamnik and France’s VB Nantes on the previous two days.
Italian star Paola Egonu registered four aces for that win, to add to the four against Nantes for a total of eight in the two games she played, and topped the servers ranking of the competition.
Nantes’ Cuban international Yaremis Mendaro Leyva piled up eight direct serving points over three matches played, but they all came in a single game, the straight-set victory over last-placed Calcit who finished the tournament winless, with a single set won, against Fenerbahce.
Led by Serbian star Brankica Mihajlovic, the tournament’s best scorer on 54 points, the Turkish powerhouse finished the event in the runner-up position on a 2-1 win-loss record.
Women’s Pool D in Istanbul
The hosts of this tournament, two-time club world champions Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul, also won all three of their matches, but only after losing their first two sets on day one against Germany’s Allianz MTV Stuttgart.
The Turkish squad powered back to achieve a complete turnaround for 3-2 (22-25, 21-25, 25-17, 25-21, 15-9) in that game and went on to defeat Russia’s Lokomotiv Kaliningrad and Dinamo Moscow in straight sets.
American middle Chiaka Ogbogu really impressed with her blocking skills delivering a total of 20 points on that element, 12 of them in the match against the most decorated club in the history of the competition, 11-time European champions Dinamo. Ogbogu stands on top of the best blockers ranking in the Champions League, seven clear of the next best, who also happened to emerge from this tournament – Lokomotiv’s Ekaterina Evdokimova.
Amongst themselves, the three remaining teams managed to claim one win each, with Dinamo overcoming Lokomotiv in five sets on Tuesday, Allianz snatching a tie-breaker success against Dinamo on Wednesday, and Loko shutting out Allianz on Thursday to place second in the current standings. Another American, opposite Krystal Rivers of the German team, was the best scorer of the tournament. Her 59-point tally puts her second in the overall pool stage ranking.
Men’s Pool A in Kedzierzyn Kozle
Grupa Azoty Kedzierzyn Kozle were the only men’s team to cruise through this week’s Champions League matches without losing a single set. The much anticipated all-Polish clash between the home team and PGE Skra Belchatow on the first competition day at the iconic Azoty hall produced a convincing 3-0 (25-21, 25-19, 25-19) victory for Grupa Azoty and inspired them to cruise on to straight-set wins over Turkey’s Fenerbahce HDI Istanbul and Belgium’s Lindemans Aalst as well. A great team effort saw coach Nikola Grbic giving court time to almost all of his players over the course of the three-day event.
Skra managed to stay close behind their compatriots in the standings after claiming the three points against each of the remaining two opponents. Their Iranian outside Milad Ebadipour was the team’s best scorer on a total of 45 points, second in the tournament only to Fenerbahce’s Cuban outside Salvador Hidalgo, who tallied 49 to stand third in the overall ranking of the competition. The tightest match in Kedzierzyn-Kozle was in fact the five-set battle between Fenerbahce and Lindemans in the tournament opener on Tuesday, in which Hidalgo scored 23 of his points to bring the victory.
Men’s Pool B in Tours
After the pandemic-related forfeit of all of Turkey’s Arkas Izmir matches in Tours, only three teams contested the event in France. In the big all-Italian clash between Cucine Lube Civitanova and Sir Sicoma Monini Perugia on the opening day, the reigning club world and continental champions emerged with a key 3-1 (25-22, 22-25, 25-20, 25-23) victory. The match turned into a scoring race between Brazil’s Yoandy Leal, who contributed 22 points to Lube’s success, and another Cuban-born star, Poland’s Wilfredo Leon, who finished with 20 points for Sir.
After both Italian teams shut out hosts Tours VB on the following two days, Leon emerged as not only the best scorer of the tournament on a total of 37 points, but also the best server on seven aces. Despite playing two matches only, Leon stands second in the overall server ranking of the pool stage so far.
Men’s Pool C in Berlin
The tournament in the German capital also featured three teams only, after Poland’s Jastrzebski Wegiel Jastrzebie-Zdroj were not able to make it because of positive coronavirus cases. Hosts Berlin Recycling Volleys shut out Slovenia’s ACH Volley Ljubljana on Tuesday, but failed to rise to the occasion on Wednesday when they faced 2017 club world champions Zenit Kazan.
The Russians prevailed in straight sets to win by 3-0 (25-21, 25-19, 25-18) with 14 points by opposite Maxim Mikhaylov, who included four aces and a block in this tally. He scored another 20 points on Thursday to become the highest scorer of the event. In the closing game against ACH, Zenit had to survive an opponent set point scare in the fourth set to close the match before losing at least a valuable point to the Slovenian side – 3-1 (25-16, 19-25, 25-23, 28-26). ACH’s Greek international Mitar Tzourits scored the match high of 21 points.
Next week: men’s Pool D in Roeselare
With the 2020 matches in the women’s Champions League now completed, only one of the first round-robin tournaments in the pools remains to be played on the men’s side. Next week, from December 15 through 17, Belgium’s Knack Roeselare will entertain Poland’s Verva Warszawa Orlen Paliwa Warsaw, Russia’s Kuzbass Kemerovo and Italy’s Leo Shoes Modena at the first of two tournaments in Pool D.
Watch all Champions League games live on EuroVolley TV. For detailed results and more information, visit the official Champions League website.
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