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Italy and Russia prolong CEV Champions League finals rivalry

More than 5,000 fans packed the V. Blinov sports complex in Siberia's second largest city to cheer their local heroes of Lokomotiv Novosibirsk as they edged out reigning champions Zenit Kazan in the semis of the Champions League on Saturday

Omsk, Russia, March 16, 2013 – Italy’s Bre Banca Lannutti Cuneo will play hometown heroes of Lokomotiv Novosibirsk in the final of the 2013 CEV Men's Volleyball Champions League on Sunday.

The team, captained by Wout Wijsmans, edged out Poland’s Zaksa Kedzierzyn-Kozle at the end of a thrilling five-set game which they won 3-2, marked by continuous ups and downs (24-26, 25-20, 25-20, 23-25, 15-10).  Lokomotiv Novosibirsk came back twice from one set down to beat last year’s winners Zenit Kazan 3-2 (19-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-16, 15-12). The winner of the final match will qualify for the 2013 FIVB Club World Championships scheduled for October.

This will be the fifth time in history that teams from Italy and Russia will cross paths in the finals of Europe’s most prestigious club competition having done so previously in 2003, 2008, 2010 and 2011.

It is currently two wins apiece for two of Europe’s volleyball heavyweights. Cuneo’s win in the semis means that an Italian team will be vying for the trophy for the ninth time since the CEV Volleyball Champions League was introduced 13 years ago. Bre Banca Lannutti did not always shine in the match against Zaksa. However they did show superb volleyball skills in the tie-break – helped by the 24 points scored by Bulgarian opposite Tsvetan Sokolov – to finally get past the strenuous resistance of the Polish team.

“I am very proud of my guys because they played a good game in the second and third sets. But I also regret not capitalising on the opportunities we had in the first set. We suddenly lost focus and eventually also the set. We did serve well and played some good high balls, so that was the key to our success. Tomorrow we have a very difficult match with Lokomotiv and we need to perform our best to stand a chance there,” Roberto Piazza said after the game.

"We can be proud of this win because we had difficult moments in this game. We played well in the second and third set, started the fourth set quite badly, came back but then ultimately lost it.  We showed our character and motivation by regrouping in the tie-break. We need to reset our minds because this was just the first step and we certainly want to go for more now that we have made it to the final match,” Wijsmans added.

The Siberian weekend that rounds off this year’s CEV Volleyball Champions League started on Saturday with a sensational win by home heroes Lokomotiv Novosibirsk who came back twice from one set down to edge out last year’s winners Zenit Kazan 3-2 (19-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-16, 15-12).

It was a game where much was at stake and hence the teams could not always display their best, but the “Siberian express” showed great composure especially in the tie-break to claim a spot in the final on Sunday (20:30 local time (CET +6)).

Lokomotiv were helped tremendously by Sweden’s Marcus Nilsson who top scored with 23 points. Zenit Kazan, on the other hand, went through ups and downs and even Russian volleyball superstar, Maxim Mikhailov, could not make the difference in the end. On Sunday Zenit will be playing for bronze, something their head coach Vladimir Alekno is certainly not happy with.

For further information visit www.cev.lu


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