A brilliant Nimir Abdel-Aziz stole the show at this week’s Champions League tournament in Trento and steered the home team to three consecutive wins in his old role as a setter and with a fantastic performance from the serving line, while Magdalena Stysiak led her Italian squad to three victories on the women’s side.
Men’s Pool E in Trento
With both playmakers of Trentino Itas Trento, Simone Giannelli and Lorenzo Sperotto, quarantined, the Dutch opposite of the team, Nimir Abdel-Aziz, was forced to take over the setter role and recall the skills and habits from the early days of his career. At the first round-robin tournament in Pool E of the men’s CEV Champions League Volley 2021, he got the job done well and Trentino topped the standings with three wins in a row.
It was particularly spectacular on Tuesday, when the home team mounted a phenomenal comeback from two sets down against Russian champions Lokomotiv Novosibirsk to emerge with a five-set victory after a shocking 15-2 in the tie-breaker. While performing his setting duties, Nimir did not fail to show his serving prowess as well. In the fifth set, he performed 11 consecutive serves, starting off with three aces in a row, to drive the victory home. In that match, the 2.01m-tall Dutchman tallied six aces, three blocks and three spikes towards a total of 12 points.
The next day, Nimir scored ‘only’ two aces towards his match tally of seven points in the four-set victory over Czechia’s CEZ Karlovarsko Karlovy Vary and exploded again on Thursday with five direct serving strikes within a 10-point contribution towards a straight-set win over Germany’s VfB Friedrichshafen. His total of 13 aces over the three matches puts him on top of the tournament’s best scorers chart, way ahead of his teammate Srecko Lisinac and Lokomotiv’s Drazen Luburic and Sergey Savin who have six aces each.
That last match was the de facto final of the tournament in Trento after Friedrichshafen had somewhat surprisingly shut out Lokomotiv, with German opposite Linus Weber scoring the match high of 19 points. Finally, with 25 points from Luburic who emerged as the best scorer of the three-day event on a total of 53 points, the Russian champs managed a four-set win over Karlovarsko to take the third place in the current standings ahead of the second tournament in the pool to be held from February 9 through 11 in Friedrichshafen.
Women’s Pool A in Scandicci
The three-day Pool A tournament in Scandicci started with a thrilling all-Italian clash between Unet e-work Busto Arsizio and hosts Savino Del Bene Scandicci. Twice in this rollercoaster of a match, the visiting side came back from a set down, before finally conceding at 17-15 in tie-breaker overtime. Like Trentino’s Nimir, Savino Del Bene’s Magdalena Stysiak delivered six aces in Tuesday’s match. Three of them came in the deciding fifth set when she served eight times in a row to give her team a 9-3 advantage.
In that match alone, the Polish opposite piled up 25 points, to which she added another 19 each in Wednesday’s four-set win over Germany’s SSC Palmberg Schwerin and in Thursday’s shutout of Poland’s Developres SkyRes Rzeszow, to top the scorers chart in the Champions League on a total of 63 points.
On the second competition day in Scandicci, Developres SkyRes were close to upsetting Unet e-work, after losing to Palmberg the previous day. The Polish team came back from two sets down to prompt a tie-breaker, which they pushed to overtime only to lose 16-14 in the end. Unet’s Camilla Mingardi scored the match high of 26 points.
In Thursday’s direct clash for the second place in the current pool standings, the team from Schwerin mastered a straight-set victory over their opponents from Busto Arsizio to save good chances of advancing to the quarterfinals ahead of hosting the second tournament from February 2 through 4.
Next week’s Champions League programme offers as many as five tournaments, three for men and two for women, from December 8 through 10.
• Men’s Pool A with Turkey’s Fenerbahce HDI Istanbul, Belgium’s Lindemans Aalst, Poland’s PGE Skra Belchtow and hosts Grupa Azoty Kedzierzyn Kozle, also of Poland
• Men’s Pool B with Turkey’s Arkas Izmir, Italy’s Cucine Lube Civitanova, Italy’s Sir Sicoma Monini Perugia and hosts Tours VB of France
• Men’s Pool C with Slovenia’s ACH Volley Ljubljana, Poland’s Jastrzebski Wegiel Jastrzebie-Zdroj, Russia’s Zenit Kazan and hosts Berlin Recycling Volleys of Germany
• Women’s Pool B (in Treviso) with Slovenia’s Calcit Volley Kamnik, Turkey’s Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul, France’s VB Nantes and hosts A. Carraro Imoco Conegliano of Italy
• Women’s Pool D with Germany’s Allianz MTV Stuttgart, Russia’s Dinamo Moscow, Russia’s Lokomotiv Kaliningrad and hosts Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul
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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