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Zenit Kazan complete perfect season with Russian Superleague title

Zenit completed a perfect season with their third crown
Kazan, Russia, April 29, 2015 - Zenit Kazan, who will participate in the FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship from October 27 to November 1, wrapped up a perfect season by claiming their seventh title in the Russian Men’s Superleague. Their home party unfolded on Tuesday night as they edged archrivals Belogorie Belgorod 3-2 (28-26, 25-20, 20-25, 18-25, 15-8) to finish the Championship series 3-1. 

Zenit had already won Russia’s National Cup in late December and about a month ago celebrated their third title in Europe’s elite competition, the CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League. 

Zenit’s mentor Vladimir Alekno decided to keep the starting six from the night before where the Tatars had cruised to a 3-0 home win in Round 3 whilst Belogorie’s coach Gennady Shipulin decided to have 39-year old Alexandr Bogomolov as one of his starters for the fourth match with Zenit. 

Though on Monday night Belogorie suffered a clear loss, the “Lions” were back in action determined to extend the Championship series to a fifth round. György Grozer hit some terrific attacks whilst Zenit responded with blocks by Wilfredo Leon and excellent serving by their middle blocker Alexander Gutsalyuk. The team captain of Belogorie, Taras Khtey, did not perform that well and their setter Dragan Travica also made mistakes, allowing Zenit to edge ahead 13-10 but Belogorie did not give up. After a time-out, Dmitriy Muserskiy started “bombing” the other side and the score was eventually levelled at 24 all. Still, Belogorie could not capitalise on their comeback and Maxim Mikhailov finished the first set at 28-26 for Zenit. 

Mikhailov played superbly to set the pace for the home side in the second set. After he made two blocks on Sergey Tetyukhin and some more hits, the score stood at 13-8 for the Tatars. Shipulin changed setter with Sergey Bagrey replacing Travica but this did not have any impact on the course of the game as some more mistakes by Muserskiy and Tetyukhin paved the way for Zenit to lead 2-0 after taking the set 25-20. 

Things changed completely in the third set. Zenit could not keep that same tempo and Belogorie rushed to a 5-1 lead. At this stage Alekno decided to replace setter Igor Kobzar with Mir Saeid Marouflakrani and the Iranian star joined forces with Mikhailov to fire back and level the score at 10 all. Though Zenit briefly edged ahead in the score, the visitors were able to respond and a block by Bogomolov on Evgeny Sivozhelez ended the set at 25-20 for Belogorie. 

Belgorod continued to set the pace of the game in the fourth set and even though the hosts trailed by just one point at 8-9, Belogorie showed some real wonders in defence. Alekno decided to substitute some of his key players to let them have some rest and this way everything went easy for Belogorie, who won the set 25-18. 

Sivozhelez set the tone for the deciding tie-break with his service whilst Belogorie had problems scoring. György Grozer spiked twice out of bounds and with Leon finding a way through the block, the score moved up to 6-1 for Zenit. Two aces by Leon and Gutsalyuk made it 12-5 and Maxim Mikhailov – who recorded 27 points in the end – cashed in the match ball to finish it off at 15-8. 

Zenit Kazan completed this way a memorable season and next October will be trying to add the only trophy that is still missing from their showcase when they participate in the FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

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