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04/03/2020 23:31
First men’s Challenge Cup semifinal set
CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup 2020 - Men

Luxembourg, March 4, 2020.  Turkey’s Spor Toto SC Ankara and France’s Rennes Volley 35 will lock horns in one of the semifinals in the men’s CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup 2020, Spor Toto snatched the first berth among the last four after surviving a golden set decider at Czechia’s VK CEZ Karlovarsko. In the away game of the all-French quarterfinal clash, Rennes once again shut out compatriots Montpellier Castelnau UC. Also on Wednesday, Italy’s Allianz Powervolley Milano won the first match of their quarterfinal series at Estonia’s Saaremaa VC in straight sets taking a solid advantage ahead of the second match to be played at the same venue on Thursday.

CEZ Karlovarsko recovered from the straight-set loss in Ankara with a 3-1 (25-21, 31-33, 25-21, 25-23) home victory over Spor Toto to prompt a golden set, which the Turkish visitors won by 15-12 to triumph as semifinalists. With Filip Rejlek spearheading the offence and Lukas Vasina acing away, Karlovarsko took the first set. The rollercoaster battle in the second went deep into overtime and despite the 10 points from Lukasz Wiese, Spor Toto emerged with a 33-31 win to level the score. The lead continued to swing back and forth in the next two sets, but Karlovarsko’s great serving proved to make the difference towards a 3-1 win. In the hard-fought golden set, Spor Toto proved a little more efficient at the net to come up with the victory in the series. Wiese and Rejlek scored 27 points apiece over the five sets in Karlovy Vary, followed by Vasina and Spor Toto’s Brazilian Leonardo Ferreira do Nascimento with 23 each.

Rennes Volley 35 hammered out a 3-0 (25-17, 25-12, 25-21) away victory at Montpellier Castelnau UC to leave their opponents ‘setless’ in the entire two-game series. On Wednesday evening, the visiting team dominated through the most part of the match, allowing the home side to raise their heads only momentarily towards the end of the third set, when they took a 19-16 lead. With four in a row, Rennes immediately regained control and, with another four in a row, they stormed to victory to close the set at 25-21. Rennes’ Brazilian opposite Rafael Rodrigues de Araujo played only in the first two sets, but that was enough for him to score the game high of 12 points. Joachim Panou was Montpellier’s most prolific player with 10 points to his name.

Rennes Volley 35’s Rafael Araujo and his teammates celebrate

Allianz Powervolley delivered a 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-23) victory over hosts Saaremaa VC in the first match between the two sides, on Wednesday. The first set started well for the Estonians and they took a 6-3 lead. It did not last long. The Italians quickly reversed it to a 10-7 lead of their own and with the help of seven successful spikes from Nimir Abdel-Aziz in the set they took a 25-21 win. The second set was tight through 11-11, after which Allianz Powervolley broke away to a wide-margin close taking advantage of some good serving from Nemanja Petric. Saaremaa did not give up and kept the battle alive through 12-12 in the third set. Further stepping up their spiking effort, the team from Milan once again opened a solid gap, but the Estonians managed to deny them the first two match points before finally surrendering by the narrowest of margins. Dutch opposite Abdel-Aziz scored the match high of 18 points. His Brazilian counterpart on Saaremaa’s side Daniel de Souza Maciel was his team’s most prolific player with 16 points.

Roberto Piazza, head coach of Allianz Powervolley: “The atmosphere was amazing! Every time I am in Estonia, the atmosphere is amazing, like in Poland! It is truly fantastic! I think the difference between the teams is not as big as the score shows. We lost three or four points in the third set because of bad decisions, but we have not been playing for a while in Italy due to the postponement of many matches. Overall, I am happy with the result. Saaremaa is a good team and Ioannis Kalmazidis is a good coach – I remember him when he won the Greek championship with PAOK. Tomorrow we also have to play our best game, nothing is easy!”
Keith Pupart, outside hitter of Saaremaa:
“There was no surprises as we knew what the level of Milan is. We expected to have a tough day with their service, since in our league no team serves like that. We did not play bad, just the opponent has a higher level but tomorrow we will come out again and we will give our all and be the best we can be. If we can stay in the game up to 20-20, we will see what happens. They are also human, not any robots.”

The semifinal playoffs are set to be held on March 19 and 26. Rennes should entertain Spor Toto in the first leg and travel to Ankara for the second.

For more info, go to the CEV Challenge Cup 2020 section.

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