Down to 12 in race for European Champions League


Armin Mustedanovic of VfB Friedrichshafen gets the ball through the Paris Volley block of Franco Paese and Ardo Kreek in the European Champions League.

Lausanne, Switzerland, March 1, 2017 - Poland's PGE Skra Belchatow and Asseco Resovia Rzeszow, Russia's Belogorie Belgorod, Belgium's Knack Roeselare and Turkey's Istanbul BBSK completed the puzzle of the 1st Round Playoffs in the European Men's Champions League, Wednesday night, as the race for the ultimate continental club title and a ticket to the 2017 FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship next December in Poland enters the home stretch.

They join ZAKSA Kedzierzyn-Kozle of Poland, defending champions Zenit Kazan and Dinamo Moscow of Russia, Azimut Modena and Cucine Lube Civitanova of Italy, Berlin Recycling Volleys of Germany and Arkas Izmir of Turkey who had already secured their berths in the Playoffs.

Italy's Sir Sicoma Colussi Perugia have already directly qualified to the Final Four as hosts of the event, 29-30 April in Rome's Palalottomatica.

Early in the evening, Istanbul BBSK handed Poland's Zaksa Kedzierzyn-Kozle (already qualified regardless and playing with reserves) their first defeat of the season 3-1 (25-23, 16-25, 25-22, 26-24), but the Turkish side still needed incredible stuff to happen elsewhere to claim one of the three tickets allocated to the best third-ranked teams across the five pools. Antonin Rouzier of France led Istanbul BBSK with 25 points (including 4 aces).

With both teams in a must-win situation, Universitatea Craiova of Romania gave it their all in the first set, but Poland's PGE Skra Belchatow prevailed in straight sets 3-0 (26-23, 25-18, 25-14) after Mariusz Wlazly scored 15 points and Srecko Lisinac of Serbia and Bartosz Kurek added another 13 each to send the Polish side through.

When the final count was in, Istanbul BBSK and Craiova were tied on 2-4 wins, 7 points and 9-14 sets. The tie was only broken on points ratio, with the Turkish side at 0.951 (508-534) to the Romanians' 0.915 (498-544). But still the Turks weren't through.

It took the shock of the day coming from Germany, where Paris Volley, already knocked out and indifferent, stunned VfB Friedrichshafen taking two sets and essentially dragging the Germans down with them to settle the score for Istanbul BBSK. Paris Volley went on to register their first win of the season 3-2 (25-20, 9-25, 25-23, 21-25, 15-9) putting an end to the German side's hopes. Franco Paese of Brazil led Paris with 21 points and was top scorer of the game in which surprisingly VfB Friedrichshafen prevailed in absolutely all skills and even made fewer errors than their opponents.

In Belgorod, Belogorie beat Knack Roeselare 3-1 (25-20, 25-20, 15-25, 25-17) to finish second in their pool, but the Belgian side also followed through as one of the best third-ranked teams. Maksim Zhigalov with 19 points and Dmitriy Muserskiy with 18 led Belogorie who were dominating on the net and no match for Hendrik Tuerlinckx's 15 points for the visitors.

Previously on Wednesday, Resovia had secured one of the three third-place tickets with a win at home 3-1 (20-25, 25-18, 25-19, 25-18) over the Czech Republic's Dukla Liberec with Germany's Jochen Schoeps scoring 19 points (including 4 aces).

The two legs of the first phase of the Playoffs will be on 15 and 22 March. A drawing of lots on Friday at the European Volleyball Confederation (CEV) headquarters in Luxembourg will determine the pairings.

Full results, statistics and pictures on the CEV website.

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