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Star-studded women’s Superliga set to begin in Russia

Russia's Irina Koroleva (left) and Mexico's Samantha Bricio together on the block for Dinamo-Ak Bars Kazan (photo: Roman Kruchinin, dinamo-kazan.com)

With the first two matches scheduled on Friday, the new season in the women’s Superliga of Russia is set to get underway. A number of Russian and foreign stars are ready to shine in the battles for the national crown.

Stars of the league
Defending champions Dinamo-Ak Bars Kazan are among the three or four teams considered among the favourites to win the 2021 title. Most of their star players, including experienced Russian internationals Irina Koroleva and Evgeniya Stratseva and Croatian striker Samanta Fabris, have extended their contracts with the Tatari club, while their only big departure, Dominican standout Bethania de la Cruz, was replaced by Mexican national team leader Samantha Bricio.

Dinamo Moscow
After 15 consecutive seasons of finishing on one of the top two steps on the podium and four titles in a row from 2016 through 2019, Dinamo Moscow had a disappointing 2019-2020 result finishing fourth in the final standings. During the transfer period, the club took serious measures and attracted a number of high-level players, most notably Natalia Pereira, a 2012 Olympic champion with Brazil, and Russian national team setter Tatiana Romanova, who came in from Uralochka-NTMK Ekaterinburg. With Russian national team stars Nataliya Goncharova and Irina Fetisova staying with Dinamo for yet another season, the team from Moscow should be back among the main contenders for the title.

Lokomotiv Kaliningrad
Dutch star Laura Dijkema highlights the list of new players for Lokomotiv Kaliningrad, who were Superliga silver medallists in the previous two seasons. In the company of Russian national team standout Irina Voronkova, who is staying with the club from the Baltic exclave, the experienced setter from the Netherlands brings new hopes of a historic first title for Lokomotiv.

Uralochka-NTMK Ekaterinburg
2020 bronze medallists Uralochka-NTMK Ekaterinburg did not announce any major incoming transfers. Yet, with the legendary Nikolay Karpol still in control and the roster featuring the name of phenomenal point-scorer Kseniia Parubets, the most decorated team in the history of Russian women’s volleyball cannot be easily written off. 

14 teams
The number of participating teams for the 2020-2021 season has been increased to 14. With the previous 12-team season prematurely interrupted because of the coronavirus outbreak, no teams were officially relegated or promoted. Sixth-placed Sakhalin Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, however, dropped out for financial reasons to be replaced by as many as three newcomers - Lipetsk, Tulitsa Tula and Superliga rookies Sparta Nizhny Novgorod. 

First matches
The new Superliga starts at 15:00 Moscow time on Friday with Dinamo Moscow visiting Yenisei Krasnoyarsk for the season opener, followed by a match between Zarechie Odintsovo and Leningradka Saint Petersburg at 19:00. The remaining five first-leg matches are scheduled on Saturday - Uralochka-NTMK Ekaterinburg v Lipetsk (16:00), Dinamo-Ak Bars Kazan v Sparta Nizhny Novgorod (17:00), Proton Saratov v Dinamo-Metar Chelyabinsk (17:00), Dinamo Krasnodar v Minchanka Minsk (17:00) and Tulitsa Tula v Lokomotiv Kaliningrad (18:00). 

The home-and-away regular season will take place from September 18, 2020 through March 6, 2021. The top two teams will advance directly to the Final Six tournament from March 29 through April 3, while the remaining four spots will be contested in a playoff round by the teams placed from third to tenth.

More volleyball from Russia:
Dinamo Moscow, Tulitsa Tula - only unbeaten teams in Russia Cup

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