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World-class Volleyball on display in CL Playoffs 12 first round

France's RC CANNES surprised Turkey's Galasataray Daikin to cause the main sensation as the Playoffs 12 round of the 2014 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League got underway this week
Luxembourg, January 17, 2014 – The Playoffs 12 of the 2014 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League – Men & Women got underway this week and even though some of the pre-favourites lived up to their status cruising to straight victories, a bunch of close world-class matches provided Volleyball fans with a first taste of what is set to follow next week.

Budvanska Rivijera BUDVA was close to upset Russian standout Belogorie BELGOROD in the men’s competition while RC CANNES caused the main sensation of the women’s Playoffs (see picture) as they displayed a superb performance to beat Turkey’s star-studded Galatasaray Daikin ISTANBUL.

Russia’s giant Belogorie BELGOROD needed five sets to edge the hosts of Budvanska Rivijera BUDVA at the Mediteranski Sports Centar (15-25, 26-24, 25-15, 19-25, and 15-10) and have the upper hand in the first round of the Playoffs 12. The local heroes were close to cause a sensation especially taking into account that their opponents still hadn’t dropped a set since the start of the competition last October. “We knew it was going to be a difficult game but we did not expect it to be this way” said Russian mentor Boriss Kolchins. “Budvanska Rivijera showed tonight that they did not make the Playoffs by chance and I think the re-match in Russia will be even more difficult. Though we are the national champions, tonight BUDVA played at the same level that we did and this is something I had not reckoned with.”

The Palasport Fontescodella was sold-out on Thursday night – 2,200 fans were in attendance but many more were ready to join – as the hosts of Lube Banca Marche MACERATA cruised to a straight win over their compatriots of Copra Elior PIACENZA (25-22, 25-21, and 25-23) in the first round of the much anticipated Italian derby. “My team showed a great attitude tonight and approached the match in the right way” said Lube Banca Marche head coach Alberto Giuliani after the game. “This is a very important victory but our qualification to the Playoffs 6 is still not guaranteed. We do expect a tough game next week in Piacenza; everything is still open: in the Playoffs 12 you always have to play two great matches to progress to the next stage and for the time being, we only won the first round.”

Though they were cheered on by more than 2,700 fans at the Robert Grenon stadium, the home heroes of TOURS VB did not live up to the very high expectations of their supporters and lost in straight sets their first Playoffs 12 game to Poland’s JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel (16-25, 24-26, and 19-25). This means TOURS VB will have a very tough task to cope with next week in Poland in order to progress to the Playoffs 6. “We did not play good at all tonight” commented TOURS VB head coach Mauricio Paes. “We really need to fight our way back and fix many things if we want to continue our adventure in the CEV Volleyball Champions League.”

Bent on revenge for last year’s defeat at the same stage of the tournament, BERLIN Recycling Volleys could not compensate for the bitter loss suffered in 2013 as they lost to Zenit KAZAN in straight sets (20-25, 22-25, and 20-25) in the first round of action of the Playoffs 12 in front of 6’349 spectators at the Max-Schmeling-Halle. Zenit head coach Vladimir Alekno was all satisfied about his team’s performance: “I’m very happy about this win that brought us important three points in this Playoff clash. I was really pleased with the team’s attitude towards this match – that was exactly what I expected from them.”

Poland’s champions Asseco Resovia RZESZOW stopped on Tuesday night the terrific winning streak of Belgium’s Knack ROESELARE claiming a 3:1 victory (22-25, 25-17, 25-20, and 25-18) in the first round of the Playoffs 12 after Knack had swept all of their matches in preliminary Pool G. “I am very happy with this victory especially as we came back after losing the first set” Resovia team captain Aleh Akhrem said after the game. “We are one step away from making the Playoffs 6 but we know that next week in Roeselare we will have to play even better than we did tonight. It was a difficult game but it is very important that we won to get the right edge before the re-match next week.”

Italy’s Diatec TRENTINO had opened the program of the Playoffs 12 on Tuesday with a 3:1 away victory over Belgium’s Noliko MAASEIK (22-25, 25-15, 26-24, and 25-18). “We are playing a lot of matches with this young team and have a busy schedule” said TRENTINO mentor Roberto Serniotti. “Tonight we played another tough game so I am happy with this victory.”

France’s RC CANNES caused the main sensation of the Playoffs 12 in the 2014 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League – Women as they beat Turkey’s Galatasaray Daikin ISTANBUL 3:1 (25-17, 25-21, 25-27, and 25-23) but could even have finished it in straight sets. Unfortunately Dutch wing-spiker Maret Grothues got injured at the end of the third set and this affected for a while the performance of the home side that was cheered on by 2,800 fans at the Palais des Victoires. “I am very satisfied with the performance we showed for almost three sets before Maret suffered that injury” said RC CANNES head coach Yan Fang. “Our players could pull together all the various ingredients for a strong performance: aggressive and precise serves, different kind of attacks, good defense and a great fighting spirit, with a smile always stamped on their faces, not to mention the block that brought us many points, especially in the fourth set.”

The fairy tale of Italian rookies Prosecco Doc-Imoco CONEGLIANO continues; on Wednesday night the “Panthers” – as they are dubbed by their fans – downed Russia’s Omichka OMSK REGION in straight sets (25-23, 25-18, and 25-23) to make a step forward on their way to the Playoffs 6 though they still have to go for a re-match next week in Siberia’s second largest city. “We played an almost perfect game, especially in serving and blocking” commented Italian coach Marco Gaspari. “This is a great victory that we want to dedicate to our fans. This was just a superb performance from a team that is participating in this competition for the first time. Now we look forward to the return game in Russia with the confidence that we can take from this victory.”

Turkey’s giant VakifBank ISTANBUL extended their terrific winning streak by routing Azerbaijan’s Igtisadchi BAKU in the first round of the Playoffs. The winners of the 2013 edition downed the rookies from Baku in straight sets (25-22, 25-20, and 25-20) to confirm once more their status of leading force in women’s Volleyball. “The power of VakifBank is known to everyone and on the other hand we could not show the performance we wanted” commented the head coach of Igtisadchi, Bülent Karslioglu after the match. “We could take at least one set but unfortunately could not capitalize on this opportunity.”

Switzerland’s Volero ZÜRICH caused a small sensation on Thursday night edging Italy’s champions RebecchiNMeccanica PIACENZA. Volero edged the Italians 3:1 (25-18, 24-26, 26-24, and 25-19) at the end of a close match and will try to seize the night also next week in Italy in order to progress to the next stage of Europe’s elite club competition. US American and Volero setter Courtney Thompson was very happy: “We were really excited with the opportunity to play PIACENZA in the Playoffs 12. We have been working hard since the start of the season to get this chance and experience such a moment. It was really fun to play today. The crowd was absolutely amazing and the fans pushed us to this victory.”

The much anticipated Russian derby ended with Dinamo KAZAN scoring a 3:1 away victory over Dinamo MOSCOW (25-21, 25-21, 18-25, and 25-16). “This is already one of the most exciting stages of the Champions League and we had to play a very strong opponent that we already know from domestic competitions” Ekaterina Gamova – who top scored with 23 points – said. “I do not think that it will be that easy at home; we shall be prepared for a tough game and remain concentrated.”

Eczacibasi VitrA ISTANBUL of Turkey confirmed on Wednesday their excellent record in this year’s CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League – they dropped only one set in the prelims – cruising to a straight away victory (25-21, 25-20, and 25-22) over Poland’s champions Atom Trefl SOPOT in the opening round of the Playoffs 12. “Even though this may not be reflected by the final score, it was a very tough game” said Eczacibasi head coach Lorenzo Micelli. “Only the next one will decide about who makes it to the next round. I am really proud of my players because they did a great job tonight especially since we have been dealing with quite some injuries lately.”

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