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Superstars to shine in Berlin in last show before VNL

Maxim Mikhaylov celebrates as he leads Zenit Kazan to yet another final of the European Champions League with a semifinal win over Sir Colussi Sicoma Perugia. (Photo: CEV)
Lausanne, Switzerland, April 10, 2019 - The world's volleyball superstars have made an appointment to meet in Berlin on 18 May for the men's and women's European Champions League Super Finals after the conclusion of the competition semifinals on Wednesday. It will be their last appearance with their clubs before they join their national teams for a thrilling FIVB season which opens on May 21 with the 2019 Volleyball Nations League.

The 'usual suspects' Maxim Mikhaylov of Russia with 17 points, Earvin Ngapeth of France with 14 and Matt Anderson of USA with 13 powered men's defending champions Zenit Kazan to a 3-1 (22-25, 25-23, 25-23, 26-24) win at home over Sir Colussi Sicoma Perugia. Serbia's Aleksandar Atanasijevic was top scorer of the game with 24 points for last year's bronze medallists Perugia.

Having also beaten the Italian side in Perugia in the first leg, Kazan made it through to their fifth straight and eighth overall Champions League final. They have won the title six times, including the last four running.

Up against Kazan in Berlin, in a rematch of last year's final, will be reigning world champions Cucine Lube Civitanova, who shut out PGE Skra Belchatow 3-0 (25-15, 24-20, 27-25) Wednesday night at home, on top of a straight-set sweep last week in Lodz.

With four players scoring in double-digits, Osmany Juantorena at 12, Yoandy Leal at 11, and Tsvetan Sokolov and Dragan Stankovic at 10 each, Lube overpowered Skra.

But the high drama of the night was played out in Novara, where Igor Gorgonzola took on women's defending champions VakifBank Istanbul having already swept the Turkish side in straight sets in the first leg last week.

All Novara needed was two sets at home to send VakifBank crashing out of the competition - but they quickly found themselves trailing by two sets. Novara picked one up, but lost the regular match in four, 1-3 (23-25, 20-25, 25-15, 21-25) as four-time European and three-time world champions VakifBank forced a 'Golden Set' to decide the ticket for Berlin.

Novara again found themselves trailing early in the 'Golden Set', but got back into the game before court-switch and went 13-11 ahead, before VakifBank rallied back to reach set point first with two to spare at 12-14. And then, Paola Egonu stepped up to the service line, delivering a thundering serve to force Zhu Ting to hit long and followed up with a direct ace for her personal 39th match-high point and a 16-14 final score that sent Novara straight to Berlin.

The women's final on 18 May will now be an all-Italian affair. A day earlier, Imoco Volley Conegliano had shut out Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul 3-0 (25-18, 25-22, 28-26) in Turkey, with Croatia's Samanta Fabris scoring 17 points and Anna Danesi another 12. The Italian side had also won the first leg at home in straight sets.

The women's final in Berlin will be the first since 2009 not to feature a Turkish team. Last time two Italian teams faced off in a Champions League final was in 2005 when Foppapedretti Bergamo beat Asystel Novara for the title.

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