Kazan open race for 2017 Club Worlds with show of power


Gokhan Gokgoz of Arkas Izmir comes up against the block of Zenit Kazan's Andrey Aschev and Maxim Mikhailov as pool play in the European Champions League gets underway.

Lausanne, Switzerland, December 8, 2016 - Defending European champions Zenit Kazan of Russia embarked on their quest for a ticket to the 2017 edition of the FIVB Men's Club World Championship with a dynamic straight-set sweep of Turkey's Arkas in Izmir, as the pool phase of the European Champions League got underway this week.

Powered by top scorer Maxim Mikhaylov (on 19 points) and USA's Matt Anderson who added 14, the runners-up of the 2016 FIVB Club World Championship in Betim overhwelmed Arkas on the block with 10 stuffs (half of those from setter Alexander Butko alone) to 3. The Russians also served 11 aces to 2 in the 3-0 (25-14, 25-11, 25-17) in front of 2,000 fans.

The win came three days after head coach Vladimir Alekno celebrated his 50th birthday and puts Zenit in a leading position in Pool C, after Paris Volley blew a two-set lead at home in the French capital to fall to Germany's VfB Friedrichshafen 3-2 (22-25, 24-26, 25-18, 25-18, 15-13). Twenty-six points each from David Sossenheimer and the Czech Republic's Michal Finger were the deciding factor in the win of the German champions, who are coached this season by Belgium's Vital Heynen.

The European champions automatically get a ticket to the Club World Championship.

Elsewhere for the opening round of the Champions League, the three Italian entrants set off with mixed results.

Cucine Lube Civitanova lost in Berlin to the local Recycling Volleys 3-1 (21-25, 25-16, 25-18, 26-24) before almost 4,500 fans. Wouter Ter Maat of The Netherlands led the scoring for the home side on 28 points and Sebastian Kuehner created all sort of problems to the Italian reception with his 5 aces (out of 12 in total for Berlin).

Reigning Italian champions Azimut Modena also struggled, as ACH Ljubljana of Slovenia took them all the way in the 3-2 (25-22, 21-25, 25-19, 23-25, 15-11) win before 3,200 fans at the Palapanini.

Sir Sicoma Colussi Perugia saved the day for the Italians with their straight-set sweep of Halkbank Ankara 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-23) before 4,300 fans at the Baskent Hall in the Turkish capital, with Aleksandar Atanasijevic scoring 18 points.

Diatec Trentino, last year's runners-up and representatives of Italy at the 2016 Club World Championship are competing in the second-tier CEV Cup this season, with their opening match in the competition not due until the new year.

Get the full results and more on the European Volleyball Confederation website.

The men's European champions League continues in a fortnight. The women's competition, which also sees the winner advance to the 2017 FIVB Club World Championship, 8-14 May in Kobe, begins next week.

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