CEV Champions League Playoffs First Round (Day 5)

Both Men’s and Women’s CEV Champions League have three matches in action today. Yesterday, two of the three matches played went all the way to a golden set. I had assumed, somewhat ridiculously as it turns out, that if the series was tied 1-1 in matches that a third match would be played. Instead, a golden set means the two teams play a single set to 15 to decide which team moves on to the next round. It seems almost unfortunate to end such a long and competitive series with such a short decider, but those are the rules.

The three matches for the Men’s CEV Champions League today are:

10:00 am ET Lokomotiv BELGOROD (RUS) vs. Bre Banca Lannutti CUNEO (ITA) (watch stream)

12:00 pm ET PGE Skra BELCHATOW (POL) vs. Knack Randstad ROESELARE (BEL) (watch stream)

12:00 pm ET Zenit KAZAN (RUS) vs. ACH Volley BLED (SLO) (watch stream)

For the Women’s CEV Champions League, today’s matches are:

10:30 am ET Eczacibasi VitrA ISTANBUL (TUR) vs. RC CANNES (FRA) (watch stream)

2:15 pm ET Voléro ZÜRICH (SUI) vs. Zarechie ODINTSOVO (RUS) (watch stream)

2:30 pm ET MC-Carnaghi VILLA CORTESE (ITA) vs. Bank BPS Fakro MUSZYNA (POL) (watch stream)

UPDATED RESULTS:

Lokomotiv BELGOROD (RUS) vs. Bre Banca Lannutti CUNEO (ITA) 1:3 (25-21, 13-25, 21-25, 18-25)

PGE Skra BELCHATOW (POL) vs. Knack Randstad ROESELARE (BEL) 3:0 (25-21, 25-17, 25-15); golden set: 15-12

Zenit KAZAN (RUS) vs. ACH Volley BLED (SLO) 3:0 (25-17, 25-22, 25-18)

MC-Carnaghi VILLA CORTESE (ITA) vs. Bank BPS Fakro MUSZYNA (POL) 3:2 (25-23, 18-25, 25-19, 8-25, 17-15); golden set: 11-15

Voléro ZÜRICH (SUI) vs. Zarechie ODINTSOVO (RUS) 3:0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-21); golden set: 15-9

Eczacibasi VitrA ISTANBUL (TUR) vs. RC CANNES (FRA) 3:0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-21)

full breakdown after the jump:

Men's:

Lokomotiv BELGOROD vs. Bre Banca Lannutti CUNEO

BELGOROD and CUNEO meet in a classic match of Russian vs. Italian volleyball. The two countries always put forward multiple competitive representitives in the Champions League, and this year is another great example. The Italian squad, CUNEO, won the first leg of the series at home last week. Now BELGOROD is heading to their home gym to attempt to reverse their fortunes. While they will have the advantage of playing at home, there are some factors in the backs of the Russian minds that may be eating at them. For one, they are 1-6 in their most recent matches. Also, of the four times they played against CUNEO this year they have lost every single one. If there is any time to prove themselves its today. Otherwise, they’ll be watching their season end tonight. If its any consolation, at least they won’t have a long trip home to think about their loss. Of course… they will be surrounded by disappointed fans. I guess they’ll have to play hard in order to avoid such a fate.

PGE Skra BELCHATOW vs. Knack Randstad ROESELARE

BELCHATOW will be hard pressed to move on after dropping the first match of the series to ROESELARE last week. They’ll have to win three sets, followed by winning the golden set to move on to the Playoff 6 round. The team has realized that their task is a tough one, and is pulling out all of the stops in order to reach a positive result. For one, they changed their home arena from one that seats 11,000 to a smaller 9,000 person venue to make the environment more favourable. Now they’ll play at the Mosir Sports Hall, the same venue that hosted the 2008 Final Four tournament whn BELCHATOW was a heavy favourite. The Polish team’s coach credits their loss last week to the demanding scheduled placed upon CEV teams, as the demanding travel schedule on top of multiple different leagues they play in takes a toll on the team.

ROESELARE will hardly let excuses and venue changes get into their head. Their job is simple: win today. They either need to win the initial match, or simply win the golden set. When interviewed, their coach Dominique Baeyens showed some frustration with the concept of the golden set. He stated “you cannot change it, so I will not discuss it and waste my energy.” It sure does add intensity to the match, and if things go as predicted, we may see yet another golden set today.

Zenit KAZAN vs. ACH Volley BLED

The only Canadians in the Champions League, Adam Simac and Dan Lewis of the Men's National Team, will play today with their backs to the wall. If Volley BLED cannot manage to win, that will spell the end for Canadians in the highest level of volleyball competition this year. The first match was hosted by BLED and ended with a landslide victory for KAZAN. Today, their starting middle Andrey Egorchev will miss the game due to a back injury he sustained at the beginning of the week. This could prove costly, as BLED’s only chance lies in winning the match and the ensuing golden set. An important player missing from the roster means they will miss the golden set as well, potentially opening a window for a glorious comeback. However, KAZAN is the overwhelming favourite and it will require some serious heroics for ACH Volley BLED to walk out of Russia with a win tonight. Only time will tell.

Women's:

Eczacibasi VitrA ISTANBUL vs. RC CANNES

Coming out of the pool play stages, VitrA ISTANBUL looked on top form and appeared to be one of the tournament favourites. In their first match of the Playoff 12 round they maintained that pace, beating RC CANNES in three straight sets. Not only that, but they did it in France. All that’s left for the team from Turkey is a win at home. If they were able to go without dropping a set as visitors, this next match should be nothing short of a route. But with the golden set always a possibility, there are no guarantees.

Volero ZURICH vs. Zarechie ODINTSOVO

Volero ZURICH, the original favourite in this match-up, have fallen behind early. They went into Russia and dropped straight sets to force their backs against a wall. Luckily, today’s match will happen on their home court in Switzerland. They’ll have to manage to win four sets today if they want to continue.

Their coach, Svetlana Ilic, maintains confidence in the squad claiming that they lost their game plan once things became difficult in Russia. The team also displayed confidence in their squad by extending the contract of two key players this week. Libero Nina Rosic and power player Brankica Mihajlovic both added years to their contracts for the Swiss champions. Now we’ll see if that confidence pays off.

MC-Carnaghi VILLA CORTESE vs. Bank BPS Fakro MUSZYNA

The Polish squad, MUSZYNA, managed to win against the tough Italian squad in Poland last week. That means that going into Italy, VILLA CORTESE is in a must win scenario.  Even with a win, the Italian Champions will still be required to win a fourth set to appear in the Playoff 6 round. Not only will they have home court advantage, but they’ll also see Cuban volleyball star Taismary Aguero return to the lineup. Aguero had missed the last month of competition, and while she may provide the star power Italy has missed, she’ll also be out of practice from not being in a game scenario for so long. It all comes down to who plays better today, and by tonight we’ll know who goes on and who goes home.