On Saturday, May 18th, the biggest professional volleyball event of the year will be taking place in the legendary Max-Schmeling-Halle in Berlin. This event is the Champions League SUPER FINALS (emphasis mine). The “volleyball party of the year” is the first time that the men’s and women’s finals will be played in the same place on the same day, in front of a sold-out crowd of 9000. Of course, we had to sacrifice bronze medal matches and it has been over a month since the semi-finals, but you give a little to get a little. This year, you can catch the action on Eurovolley.tv, flovolleyball.tv in the states, or whatever stream you can get your hands on.
Igor Gorgonzola Novara vs Imoco Volley Conegliao, 10am et, 4pm CET
The last few years in volleyball have seen the return of Italy to the top of the club volleyball world. Mostly on the men’s side, but now the women’s league is showing potential to do the same. Vakifbank, the Turkish club with a nearly unlimited budget and names like Zhu Ting, Kelsey Robinson, Milena Rasic, and Lonneke Sloetjes, was stunned in a golden set upset by Novara. The 20-year old Italian opposite Paula Egonu was the star of the show there, scoring 39 points.
This matchup would be a lot more interesting had Novara and Conegliano not just met up in the Italian league finals, where Imoco coasted to victory in three matches. Just like in the champions league, they relied heavily on Egonu. She struggled to match the more balanced offensive attack of Conegliano, who could score from a variety of positions with hitters like Kelsey Robinson, Samatha Fabris, and Robin De Kruijf. Egonu will join that balanced offense next season, which adds another layer to this developing rivalry.
By the numbers:
Score (in sets) between Conegliano and Novara in the month of May: 9-2
Attacking attempts by Paola Egonu in those matches: 134
Hitting efficiency of Robin De Kruijf in those matches: 23/36 attacking – 1 blocked hit – 0 errors = 61%
Last Champions League Final without a Turkish team: 2009 (Volley Bergamo vs Dinamo Moscow)
Cucine Lube Civitanova vs Zenit Kazan, 1pm ET, 7pm CET
After dozens of grueling matches 34 teams, we end up with the exact same matchup as last year. Not that I’m complaining. The last two matches between these clubs resulted in two of the best volleyball games ever. In the finals last year, every set but one was decided by two points, and in this season’s club world championships, Lube saved SIX match points to win from down 10-14. I don’t think Kazan has forgotten that. Kazan has history on their side though, as winners of the last four Champions League titles.
These teams come into this Super Finals in different situations than they did last year, however. Just a few days ago, Lube came back from down 0-2 in sets to take the Italian League title over Perugia in a deciding game 5. Last year, they lost in game 5 to Perugia. Zenit Kazan, however, comes into the match with their first domestic league playoff loss since 2013, to Kuzbass Kemerovo. Like Egonu in Novara, Lube opposite Tsvetan Sokolov will be joining his opponents after this match. Despite this reinforcement, we could be seeing swan song of the most dominant clubs in all of sports over the last decade. Can they finish with a win?
By the numbers:
Last time Zenit Kazan lost a series in Champions League: March 24th, 2014
Number of league titles by Lube in 2019: 1
Number of league titles by Kazan in 2019: 0
Score (in sets)between the last two matchups between Kazan and Lube: 5-5
Number of seasons of Game of Thrones since the semi-finals: 1