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Thrilling shows as club leagues peak across the world

USA's Matt Anderson tries to get past the block of Serbia's Aleksandar Atanasijevic and Italy's Fabio Ricci as Zenit Kazan score crucial away win over Sir Colussi Sicoma Perugia in the European Champions League. (Photo credit: CEV)
Lausanne, Switzerland, April 8, 2019 - Defending champions Zenit Kazan of Russia and Italy's Cucine Lube Civitanova have gained an edge in the race for tickets to the final of the 2019 Men's European Champions League after both scored away wins in the first legs of the semifinals, as club leagues around the world enter the final stretch ahead of a highly anticipated FIVB season.

France's Earvin Ngapeth scored 22 points and USA's Matt Anderson added 20, as Kazan outblocked and outserved Sir Colussi Sicoma Perugia for a 3-2 (25-22, 24-26, 27-25, 20-25, 15-13) win in Italy. The 25 points of Cuba-born Wilfredo Leon and 24 of Serbia's Alekandar Atanasijevic for Perugia was just not enough for the Italian side who now face an uphill struggle when they travel to the Tatarstan capital this week.

And before more than 10,000 fans in Lodz, 13 points each from Bulgaria's Tsvetan Sokolov and Cuba-born Yoandy Leal plus 12 more from Osmany Juantorena powered Lube to a solid 3-0 (25-14, 25-20, 25-23) win over PGE Skra Belchatow.

• Elsewhere in men's club action, Funvic Taubate stunned Sada Cruzeiro of Contagem at the Riachao with a 3-1 (30-28, 25-19, 22-25, 26-24) win in the first leg of the best-of-five semifinal series of the Brazilian Superleague. Ricardo Lucarelli for Taubate and Evandro Guerra for Sada Cruzeiro each scored 21 points.
• Sesi Sao Paulo opened the other semifinal series of the Brazilian Superleague with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-19) sweep of Sesc Rio de Janeiro, led by Alan Souza and Luiz Felipe 'Lipe' Fonteles who scored 12 points each while Gustavo Bonatto added another 12.
• Across the border, in the Argentina National League, Cubans Osniel Melgarejo and Jesus Herrera each scored 25 points for Obras de San Juan as they sent UPCN San Juan crashing out of the playoffs with a 3-2 (23-25, 16-25, 25-20, 25-18, 15-13) comeback win in the fourth game of the best-of-five playoffs. It is the first time in nine years that UPCN are not through to the final of the League.
• Obras meet Bolivar in the best-of-five final series for the title. Bolivar had already wrapped up their semifinals series with three straight wins over Libertad Burgi.
• In Poland, Aluron Virtu Warta Zawiercie are through to the semifinals of the PlusLiga, after Portugal's Alexandre Ferreira scored 13 points and led the side to a deciding 3-0 (25-21, 25-19, 25-17) thrashing of Cerrad Czarni Radom.
• And in Italy, with 29 points from Ukraine's Oleh Plotnytskyi and 21 from the Czech Republic's Donovan Dzavoronok, Vero Volley Monza tied their Superleague quarterfinal series with a 3-2 (25-17, 25-27, 25-20, 22-25, 15-12) win over Perugia.
• Also tied at 1-1 in the Italian Superleague quarterfinals are Itas Trentino after Marco Volpato, France's Yacine Louati and Puerto Rico's Maurice Torres each scored 11 points leading Kioene Padova to a 3-0 (25-22, 26-24, 25-22) win. Lube and Azimut Leo Shoes Modena are already through to the semifinals.

• In women's midweek action, Paula Egonu scored 30 points and USA's Michelle Bartsch-Hackley added another 14 as Igor Gorgonzola Novara stunned defending champions VakifBank Istanbul 3-0 (25-17, 27-25, 25-15) in Turkey in the first leg of the European Champions League semifinals.
• Imoco Volley Conegliano also scored a solid 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 26-24) win over Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul in the other Turco-Italian clash of the Champions League semifinals. Croatia's Samantha Fabris led the scoring for Conegliano with 20 points.

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