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17/02/2020 10:59
Five quarterfinal spots up for grabs in women’s Champions League
CEV Champions League Volley 2020 - Women

Luxembourg, February 17, 2020.  With Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul, VakifBank Istanbul and A. Carraro Imoco Conegliano the only three teams to have secured their spots in the quarterfinals of the CEV Champions League Volley 2020 - Women, five more vacancies await to be filled on Tuesday evening, when the last leg of pool stage matches are set to be played. As per the format of the competition, the five pool winners and the three best ranked pool runners-up will advance to the last eight in the direct eliminations.

Pool C is one of the two pools where the winner is yet to be determined and as many as three teams still have their chances to progress to the next round. Two of these teams, defending champions Igor Gorgonzola Novara of Italy and Poland’s LKS Commercecon Lodz, will go up against each other in the Match of the Week on February 18 at 20:30 local time in Novara. A win for pool leaders Igor Gorgonzola, now on a 4-1 win-loss record, would cement them on top of the pool and propel them into the quarterfinals. A win for LKS, currently third on 3-2 and 8 points, would leave them with a remote shot at the second place and possible advancement. Over 2,000 people are expected to attend the stands, among them at least 100 Polish fans from Lodz as well as at least 200 young spectators from a local primary school who have already met some of the players last week and received a special invitation. At a special ceremony before the game, Igor Gorgonzola’s coach Massimo Barbolini will be awarded as the 2019 CEV Women’s Team Coach of the Year.

Head to head
• Igor Gorgonzola Novara defeated LKS Commercecon Lodz 3-2 in Lodz on December 17, 2019, the first Champions League meeting between the teams.
• Jovana Brakocevic Canzian (18) won the most points for Igor Gorgonzola Novara, while Katarina Lazovic (15) was LKS Commercecon Lodz's top scorer in that match.
• Igor Gorgonzola Novara have won each of their last three Champions League matches against Polish opposition, after losing each of their first two.
• LKS Commercecon Lodz are winless in their Champions League matches against teams from Italy, losing on all five occasions.

Igor Gorgonzola Novara
• Defending champions Igor Gorgonzola Novara are the frontrunners in Pool C to qualify for the quarterfinals.
• Igor Gorgonzola Novara can become the fourth team to win successive Champions League (since 2000) titles, after RC Cannes (2002, 2003), Volley Bergamo (2009, 2010) and VakifBank Istanbul (2017, 2018).
• Igor Gorgonzola Novara have won each of their last eight Champions League fourth round matches played in Novara.
• Igor Gorgonzola Novara have won each of their last four five-setters in the Champions League, including a 3-2 win against LKS Commercecon Lodz on December 17, 2019.
• Only A. Carraro Imoco Conegliano (36) and Lokomotiv Kaliningrad Region (33) have produced more aces in the fourth round than Igor Gorgonzola Novara (32).
• Micha Danielle Hancock (15) has the most aces in this season's Champions League fourth round, at least five more than any other woman.
• Hancock is also the third-best setter in the fourth round on an efficiency of 44.68%.
• Stefana Veljkovic (60.47%) has the second-best spiker efficiency in the fourth round, behind only A. Carraro Imoco Conegliano's Raphaela Folie (65.63%).

LKS Commercecon Lodz
• LKS Commercecon Lodz could still qualify for the quarterfinals, but only among the top three second-placed teams.
• LKS Commercecon Lodz won three of their five matches this Champions League season, including two in five sets. They won one match in their only previous Champions League appearance (2018-2019).
• LKS Commercecon Lodz won only one of their five Champions League matches outside of Lodz, a 3-2 win against Khimik Yuzhny on November 26, 2019.
• Two of LKS Commercecon Lodz's four Champions League victories came after losing the first set: 3-2 wins against Allianz MTV Stuttgart and Khimik Yuzhny in this campaign.
• Only VakifBank Istanbul (61) has won more points from stuff blocks in this season's fourth round than LKS Commercecon Lodz (60).
• Joanna Pacak has won 16 points from stuff blocks this Champions League season, only trailing RC Cannes' Myriam Kloster and Mira Todorova (17 each) for most in the fourth round.

In the other match in the pool, Germany’s Allianz MTV Stuttgart, currently second on 3-2 and 10 points, entertain winless Khimik Yuzhny of Ukraine at 19:00 local time. A three-point victory for the hosts would stamp their ticket to the quarterfinals. On Sunday, Allianz narrowly missed the national cup of Germany losing to Dresdner SC by 15-17 in the tie-breaker. Despite the disappointment, they hope history will repeat itself, since last year, right after losing the German Cup final, the squad from Stuttgart managed to win their last game in their Champions League pool and become the first women’s team from their country to reach the quarterfinals.

Ioannis Athanasopoulos, head coach of Allianz MTV Stuttgart: "Khimik is a very good team and we have to play our best Volleyball to qualify to the quarterfinals. We all know that, but, obviously, we are very disappointed with the result of the German Cup final. Now we have to find the courage and the power to overcome the deep disappointment and put our maximum effort to win the game on Tuesday!"

Annie Cesar, libero of Allianz MTV Stuttgart: "The Champions League is a totally different challenge, a different competition... It will be hard to adjust and it will be hard to swallow the painful result of our match on Sunday night in front of almost 11,000 spectators, 1,500 of them our fans travelling to see the German Cup final. There is no rest, no time to think it over, which can also be an advantage. We are all professional players and know what to do. We have to think positive. What has happened cannot be changed. So we have to keep on going and giving our best."

All the intrigue in Pool A revolves around the question whether runners-ups Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul will be among the three to gain passage to the next round. As they welcome winless LP Salo of Finland at 20:00 local time, the Turkish side, now on 3-2 and 11 points, need any kind of win to be safe.

Bahar Toksoy Guidetti, middle blocker of Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul: "It will be an important match for our own game rhythm even if it does not make a difference in the pool ranking for us. We will play our last match in the pool and the elimination matches will start from now on. Our competitors will be more challenging. We want to continue our way strongly."

Kelsey Robinson, outside spiker of Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul: "We play our last game in the pool and this match is important to us. We want to perform well and fly high into the next round. We will continue our way by doing the best we can and winning this match."

Fenerbahce’s undefeated compatriots of Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul, who have already secured the first place in the final pool standings, welcome Poland’s Budowlani Lodz, stuck in third regardless of the outcome, in this week’s Champions League opener, starting at 17:00 local time at the Burhan Felek. In a Turkish league clash on Saturday, Eczacibasi emerged with a five-set victory over city rivals Fenerbahce, their second for the week, after defeating Galatasaray HDI Istanbul by the same score on Wednesday. Tijana Boskovic was unstoppable in both matches arriving at a combined total of 57 points for the winners.

Yasemin Guveli, middle blocker of Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul: “Although we have secured the first place in Pool A, we are focused on playing the Budowlani match with full discipline and concentration. We have been going through a busy schedule lately and it is a tough period of the season for us. On Tuesday, we will be on court to give our best.”

Julia Twardowska, outside spiker of Budowlani Lodz: “We didn't win any set in the first game with Eczacibasi and we know that they are a very strong team, but we want to show a good game and set the bar high. For us, playing against the likes of Tijana Boskovic or Natalia Pereira is a huge distinction and a chance to gain new experience.”

Be it as pool winners or as one of the best three runners-up, Turkey’s VakifBank Istanbul are already through to the last eight. They lead the Pool B table on 4-1 and 12 points before hosting third-placed Lokomotiv Kaliningrad Region of Russia, who have lost all chances of advancing, at 19:30 local time.

Giovanni Guiddetti, head coach of VakifBank Istanbul: "This is the last match of the pool stage and we are in first place. We want to finish in first place as well. This match is very important for us. We have to win and we want to win, because we want to keep this good atmosphere in our gym, as we had last time. I hope that our fans will support us as they did before, against the team from Maribor and against Fenerbahce."

Melis Gurkaynak, captain of VakifBank Istanbul: "Since it is the last game we will play in the pool, it is very important for us.  We want to finish the pool stage in first place. We won the first game against Lokomotiv 3-2. This time we want to win by a clearer score."

Second-placed Savino Del Bene Scandicci are also on a 4-1 win-loss, but two points short of VakifBank. Any kind of victory over winless Nova KBM Branik Maribor as they visit Slovenia at 18:00 local time would place the Italian squad among the quarterfinalists.

Reigning club world champions A. Carraro Imoco Conegliano of Italy have yet to concede their first loss in this season’s Champions League and are safely on top of Pool D, standing on a perfect record before hosting second-placed Nantes VB of France on Tuesday at 19:00 local time. While the French side could, at least in theory, end up among the best three pool runners-up if they win two sets at the Palaverde, even a straight-set victory cannot fully guarantee them a ticket to the next round, as it would depend on the outcome in the other pools.

Paola Egonu, opposite of A. Carraro Imoco Conegliano: "We are already qualified for the next round, but it is not in our DNA to underestimate the games. We always play to honour the commitment as much as possible and tomorrow, at Palaverde, we want to play another beautiful game against Nantes in front of our supporters and continue our positive season."

Holding a reasonable shot at the second place in the pool, but not at the quarterfinals, Romania’s leading team C.S.M. Volei Alba Blaj (2-3, 6 points) will try to finish this campaign on a high note as they entertain winless Vasas Obuda Budapest, who recently won the national cup in Hungary, at 17:00 local time in Sibiu.

Darko Zakoc, head coach of C.S.M. Volei Alba Blaj: "As I said, the qualification has been lost since the first match, against Nantes, but we want to reward the loyalty of our supporters with a victory and to finish our Champions League campaign with three wins on our record."

Ioana Baciu, captain of C.S.M. Volei Alba Blaj: “We expect the biggest number of supporters in Sibiu. We promise that we will do our best to win. We will approach the match as focused as in the championship game on Saturday, and we want to finish in the best possible way.”

In the tightest of the five pools, Pool E, the winner will emerge from the direct clash between Russia’s Dinamo Moscow and France’s RC Cannes set to start at 19:00 local time in the Russian capital. Each of the two frontrunners is on a 3-2 win-loss and 9 points, followed by third-placed Maritza Plovdiv of Bulgaria (2-3, 7 points), who are hoping to finish second if they win their home game with bottom-placed and out-of-contention Uralochka-NTMK Ekaterinburg (2-3, 5 points), starting at 18:30 local time. With three teams among the possible runners-up in the pool, they have some, but quite slim, chances to progress.

Vladimir Orlov, assistant coach of Maritza Plovdiv: “We were overwhelmed with emotions from winning against Dinamo and Cannes in our previous two games and a fast recovery from such emotions could be a bit tricky. Of course, we will come out against Uralochka with the mindset to win the match, as it would be very prestigious to defeat one more big Russian opponent with a legendary name in the history of international Volleyball.”

Kremena Kamenova, outside spiker of Maritza Plovdiv: “We have been training quite well over the past week and we will do all that’s possible to win. It doesn’t matter if it is by 3-0, 3-1 or 3-2. Our fans on the stands will definitely be of great help again and we will give everything we have...”

All Champions League games are streamed live on EuroVolleyTV.
For more info on the competition, go to the CEV Champions League Volley 2020 - Women section.

News nr. 10 of 66
18/02/2020 21:59:00
All Women's Champions League quarterfinalists confirmed at end of pool play
06/02/2020 20:15:00
Dinamo crush Uralochka for shot at quarterfinals, Conegliano and Eczacibasi stay unbeaten

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