Grupa Azoty ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle staged a real upset in the rematch of the 2021 CEV Volleyball Champions League playoff quarterfinals.
In a duel of the two national champions, Italy’s Lube annulled an advantage of Poland’s ZAKSA from the 1st leg, prevailing by a 3-0 (25:22, 26:24, 26:24). But, ZAKSA’s plan to avoid Golden Set, for which they needed to take 2 sets tonight, failed. However, Nikola Grbić’s team was slightly more focused in an additional set, to claim it by 16:14. Thus, they earned a promotion to the semifinals, while Lube won’t have the chance to defend the title in the competition.
Łukasz Kaczmarek and Kamil Semeniuk scored 15 point each for the polish club, while Jakub Kochanowski set up 4 blocks, while Cuban-Italian Osmany Juantorena also scored 15 points on the other side of the net, and Cuban Robertlandy Simón served 4 aces.
The shock therapy that sometimes comes with a sudden change of coach (Blengini replaced De Giorgi) didn’t give a result to the Italian powerhouse.
In the Final Four, ZAKSA will face the winners of a matchup bezween Zenit Kazan and PGE Skra Bełchatów.
Benjamin Toniutti, setter and captain of Grupa Azoty Kędzierzyn Kozle: “Awesome! I can’t believe it! We came back from a long journey, because Civitanova played a great match. However, we believed until the end that we could beat the favourite! Fantastic feeling.”
Łukasz Kaczmarek, opposite of Grupa Azoty Kędzierzyn Kozle: “I don’t get it yet. In each of the sets we were very close to our rivals, but only the very end gave us luck. I risked a strong serve in the end.”
Osmany Juantorena, captain and outside spiker of Cucine Lube Civitanova: “What can I say, we ran out of luck. Both teams deserved promotion because both played 100 percent of their abilities”
Gianlorenzo Blengini, coach of Cucine Lube Civitanova: “The epilogue is very sad for us, because we played a game of suffering, uphill from the beginning. Not only because of the result of the first leg, but also because the hosts were immediately on fire and capable to get on the ropes at the start. We managed to stay in the wake and to overtake. There is some regret for the Golden Set lost by one ball. We have wasted several opportunities after good defensive plays. We weren’t good enough to take a few points ahead and get the qualification”.
| 2021 CEV Volleyball Champions League, playoff quarterfinals – 1st leg:
| February 23, 2021
• Leo Shoes Modena – Sir Safety Perugia 3-0 (25:21, 25:18, 25:22)
| February 24
• Cucine Lube Civitanova – Grupa Azoty Kędzierzyn Kozle 1-3 (23:25, 25:14, 21:25, 21:25)
• PGE Skra Belchatow – Zenit Kazan 1-3 (23:25, 25:19, 23:25, 19:25)
| February 25
• Berlin Recycling Volleys – Itas Trentino (19:25, 23:25, 28:26, 17:25)
| Second Leg
| March 2
• Sir Safety Perugia – Leo Shoes Modena 3-0 (25:23, 25:18, 25:21 – GOLDEN SET 15:5)
| March 3
• Grupa Azoty Kędzierzyn Kozle – Cucine Lube Civitanova 3-0 (22:25, 24:26, 24:26 – GOLDEN SET: 16:14)
Source and photos: CEV