Relentless Belogorie BELGOROD prolong Russian supremacy
2014 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League - Men
Ankara, Turkey, March 23, 2014. Russia’s supremacy in international competitions was cemented once more on Sunday at the Baskent Volleyball Hall where Belogorie BELGOROD lived up to their status to strike their third crown in the CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League after claiming a stellar final match where they edged past hosts Halkbank ANKARA (3:1; 25-18, 21-25, 25-16, and 27-25). With this victory Belogorie emulates Italy’s TRENTINO Volley, the sole club whose showcase also includes three titles in Europe’s elite club competition. This way Belogorie also got the right to represent Europe at the 2014 FIVB Club World Championship which is due to take place through May 6-11 in Betim, Brazil.
Belogorie – whose previous titles dated back to 2003 and 2004 – prolonged Russia’s rule in the CEV Volleyball Champions League. Russian teams have indeed won the cup in the last three straight seasons. The hosts of Halkbank ANKARA could be proud of their performance also since their silver medal stands at Turkey’s best result in this competition since its establishment 14 years ago.
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The Baskent Volleyball Hall was packed well before the start of the final match starring the home heroes of Halkbank and Russia’s heavyweight Belogorie BELGOROD, with a liquid light show entertaining about 7,000 fans waiting for some of the world’s best Volleyball players to show up and provide the climax of an already memorable Champions League season. One of the four corners was filled up with the supporters of Belogorie whose drums this time could barely be heard as the Turkish fans were as loud as ever.
The final added another chapter to the rivalry between Russia and Turkey, whose previous act was celebrated only a week before in Baku where Dinamo KAZAN had edged VakifBank in the gold medal match of the women’s competition. The match started in a perfect way for Halkbank (2:0) with Belogorie losing their first attempt to overturn a decision of the referee by exploiting the video check system. It was Mitar Tzourits who initially set the tempo of the match for the hosts (4:1) but Belogorie did not seem too intimidated by the Turkish audience, firing back with the same intensity and power displayed by Halkbank (5:5). The hosts got a slim edge by the first technical time-out (8:6) after Russian Volleyball legend Sergey Tetyukhin served off the court. The pre-favourite going into this game, Belogorie briefly claimed the lead at 10:9 before Matey Kaziyski showed his class to score two straight points and get the hosts back on track. If the semi-finals had a little disappointed the audience and the media, the start of the gold medal match definitely lived up to the expectations anyone may have for the last act of Europe’s elite competition. Belogorie could rely on their terrific blocks to stop the outstanding spikers of Halkbank and the Russian bears eventually broke away in the score after the second technical time-out (18:15). The head coach of Halkbank, Radostin Stoytchev, stopped the game but did not get the reaction he was hoping for, with Belogorie widening their lead on an ace by Tetyukhin and a triple block on Tzourits (19:15). His second time-out was followed by another ace of Tetyukhin; the set quickly turned into an uphill climb for the home guys who were lagging behind by five points (22:17) and could not close that gap. Belogorie cashed the 1:0 (25-18) with their superstar Dmitriy Muserskiy but one thing was for sure: many more emotions were going to follow and the battle was far away from being over.
Belogorie stretched momentum to the early phases of the second set (3:1) and even though the Russian giants continued to pressure their opponents with terrific serves and with their middle blockers, Halkbank was able to stand the challenge and to level the score at 5. Once more Belogorie changed gear and with a break of three straight points set the bar really high for Halkbank already at the first technical time-out (8:5). The scenario that coach Stoytchev was afraid of was gradually turning into reality with Halkbank finding it difficult to stop Dmitriy Muserskiy and the “dream spiking trio” composed of Georg Grozer, Dmitriy Ilinykh and Tetyukhin (10:6). Slowly but surely Belogorie imposed their status of scoring machine that had dropped only three sets since the start of the season last October; Halkbank attempted a comeback reducing their deficit to two points (12:10) but Belogorie responded with yet another mind-boggling crosscourt by their German opposite Grozer. Halkbank was able to close the gap to only one point a couple of times before their chase was eventually complete after drawing level at 15. Kaziyski then finished the next rally to call for the second technical time-out and bring back the enthusiasm of the Turkish fans. Halkbank played just superbly prompting a time-out by Belogorie legendary mentor Gennady Shipulin after the hosts moved the score up to 19:17. This time his strategy did not work out especially as Halkbank was doing a great job behind the service line. Only a few could have reckoned with that happy end halfway through the set, but ultimately Halkbank drew the score (25-22) on a spike by Juantorena.
Another close race marked the early phases of the third set before Belogorie claimed the first two-point lead at 9:7 on a single block by Grozer. The Russian giants accelerated their tempo (11:7) also by exploiting the first mistakes made by their opponents in this set; the yellow-red wall made up by the fans of BELGOROD accompanied every single point scored by their heroes with loud hurrahs (13:8) while Halkbank seemed to struggle to play with the consistency required by the very demanding task they were taking on. Turkey’s Volleyball rising star Burutay Subasi joined the actions at this stage in an attempt to change the course of the set but Belogorie’s lead had grown up to six points by the second technical time-out (16:10). The Russian machine kept on running according to its usual standards (20:12) and by the time the fate of the set looked compromised, Stoytchev substituted almost his entire starting six. Nothing changed in the rallies that followed with Belogorie comfortably cruising to a clear-cut 25-16 to re-impose their rule on the match.
The show was not yet over for Halkbank still had enough energy left for a tremendous performance in the fourth set where they opened their lead shortly after the first mandatory stop moving the score from 10:9 to 14:11. The Turks were back to their usual starting six but Belogorie looked determined to avoid the risks of a tie-break before the enthusiastic crowd of Ankara. Halkbank’s lead was reduced down to one point at 17:16 but the hosts regrouped once more and with a series of stellar actions accelerated down the final stretch to make it 22:17. Belogorie surged back to draw level at 22 as Russia’s Volleyball hero, 38-year old Sergey Tetyukhin, was standing behind the service line. Shipulin had intelligently changed his opposite and setter to fire up that terrific comeback with the help of Sergey Bagrey and Maksim Zhigalov and the first match ball was eventually there after the Turkish block touched a crosscourt killed by Ilinykh. Kaziyski avenged that first opportunity for Belogorie to start their party before Batur served into the net to provide BELGOROD with a second chance to seize the day. At this stage Grozer and Travica were back in action but Belogorie missed out also on the second match ball. Grozer was the man of the match in the end for he contributed the third match point for Belogorie and cashed it a few seconds later by stopping Kaziyski (27-25).
MVP: Sergey Tetyukhin (RUS/Belogorie BELGOROD)
Best Scorer: Michal Lasko (ITA/JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel)
Best Spiker: Maxim Mikhaylov (RUS/Zenit KAZAN)
Best Server: Emre Batur (TUR/Halkbank ANKARA)
Best Blocker: Dmitriy Muserskiy (RUS/Belogorie BELGOROD)
Best Receiver: Matey Kaziyski (BUL/Halkbank ANKARA)
Best Setter: Raphael Vieira de Oliveira (BRA/Halkbank ANKARA)
Best Libero: Damian Wojtaszek (POL/JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel)
Fair Play Award: Alexander Volkov (RUS/Zenit KAZAN)
1. Belogorie BELGOROD (RUS)
2. Halkbank ANKARA (TUR)
3. JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel (POL)
4. Zenit KAZAN (RUS)
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