100% for Russia and Italy as drama unfolds across Europe


Tsvetan Sokolov of Cucine Lube Civitanova gets the better of PGE Skra Belchatow's Nikolay Penchev in a Bulgarian duel on the net.

Lausanne, Switzerland, March 23, 2017 - Russian and Italian clubs dominated midweek play and qualified all their teams to the second round of the European Men's Champions League second round Playoffs - but not before some drama played out this week.

The week's results mean Poland will not have a team in the Final Four of the competition for the first time in eight years, after the 'Round of 6' Playoffs took shape as follows:

- Berlin Recycling Volleys (GER) v Dinamo Moscow (RUS)
- Azimut Modena (ITA) v Cucine Lube Civitanova (ITA)
- Zenit Kazan (RUS) v Belogorie Belorod (RUS)

The winners of these home-and-away ties will qualify to the Final Four, 29-30 April in Rome, where they join hosts Sir Sicoma Colussi Perugia of Italy.

The 2017 European champions will get a direct ticket to the 2017 FIVB Club World Championship, 11-17 December in Poland. The reigning Asian champions Saramyeh Bank Tehran and the reigning South American champions and defending world champions Sada Cruzeiro Contagem have already qualifie. The field will also include the 2017 Polish PlusLiga champions as hosts and the the champions of the top two non-qualified countries in the FIVB world rankings (as it stands Italy and Russia). An additional two wild cards will be awarded.

While Dinamo and defending champions Zenit had little trouble in disposing of their opponents Knack Roeselare of Belgium 3-0 (25-19, 25-16, 25-20) and Turkey's Arkas Izmir 3-0 (25-23, 25-22, 33-31), it was a totally different case for Belogorie.

The Russians had defeated Zaksa Kedzierzyn-Kozle in four sets at Belgorod last week, but still needed at least two sets from the reigning Polish champions at Kedzierzyn-Kozle. The two sides were locked at 1-1 as the battle for the crucial third commenced. Though Kedzierzyn-Kozle enjoyed a very brief 23-22 lead, Belogorie rallied back to take that crucial set after two set points and secure their ticket to the next round.

Belogorie had more scoring options and led by Dmitry Muserksy, Maksim Zhigalov, and Ukrainians Ian Iereshchenko and Dmytro Toryomenko dominated the serving and blocking for the remainder of the match to win 3-1 (25-22, 20-25, 26-24, 25-21).

Lube had won their first leg in four sets in Lodz over PGE Skra Belchatow and needed just two sets at home to make it though. But it was no easy feat, as the Polish side took a 19-23 lead in the first set and managed to cancel one set point of Lube, who put the pressure on with USA's Micah Christenson from the service line and Bulgaria's Tsvetan Sokolov at the net to turn it around.

In the end, Belchatow did just manage to win the game 3-2 (24-26, 16-25, 28-26, 25-15, 15-13), but only after Lube had secured the first two sets and coaches Lorenzo Blengini and Philippe Blain brought on their subs.

Modena, who had beaten Asseco Resovia Rzeszow in five sets a fortnight ago in Poland, followed up with a 3-1 (25-23, 20-25, 25-23, 25-23) win Thursday night at the Palapanini. Resovia were poised to give Modena a hard time when they came back from four points down at 10-6 in the fourth to overtake the home side for 19-22. But Earvin Ngapeth was having none of that and almost took it upon himself to turn the tables again as Modena rallied for five straight points to reach match point at 24-22 and end the game at 25-23.

The Frenchman was top scorer of the game with 25 points as Luca Vettori and Serbia's Nemanja Petric added another 12 each. Jochen Shoeps of Germany was Resovia's best scorer with 18.

There was also drama when the week's action opened in Berlin as reigning German champions Recycling Volleys came back from the brink of elimination to claim the ticket to the next round with a 15-11 'golden set' over Turkey's BBSK Istanbul before more than 4,000 spectators.

The Berlin side had managed to take two sets from BBSK Istanbul last week in the Turkish and were with one foot in the Playoffs 'round of 6'. But the Turks took a two-set lead Tuesday night in the German capital before Recycling Volleys rallied back for four straight sets to tie the regular match 3-2 (21-25, 18-25, 25-13, 25-14, 16-14, 15-11).

Robert Kromm scored 20 points in the six sets and Paul Carroll of Australia another 19 to lead Recycling Volleys to their amazing comeback. France's Antonin Rouzier with 22 points for BBSK Istanbul was top scorer of the game.

Full reports, statistics, pictures and more on the European Volleyball Confederation webiste.

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