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05/02/2020 22:06
VakifBank shock Scandicci, Maritza stun Cannes as race for quarterfinals continues
CEV Champions League Volley 2020 - Women

Luxembourg, February 5, 2020. Turkey's VakifBank Istanbul conquered Siena and Italy's Savino Del Bene Scandicci, while Bulgaria's Maritza Plovdiv stunned pool E leaders RC Cannes of France in the most thrilling and deciding matches of Leg 5 in the 2020 Women's European Champions League Wednesday evening, as the day of reckoning in the quest for quarterifnal berths draws ever closer.

Four-time European champions VakifBank silenced the home crowd in Siena, sweeping Savino Del Bene Scandicci 3-0 (28-26, 25-19, 25-21) to climb to the top of the standings in Pool B on identical 3-1 win records but better than Scandicci on ranking points.

It was Scandicci's first defeat this season and revenge for the Italian side's five-set win Istanbul on the opening day of the competition.

VakifBank were quick to reach set point in the first, with two to spare, but saw five in total cancelled before finishing it off. The Turkish team led through most of all sets, Scandicci in vain playing catch-up, unable to keep up with the frantic pace VakifBank were setting.

Sweden's Isabelle Haak smashed 21 balls from 36 swings for a 58% attacking efficiency and amassed an impressive match high of 24 points for VakifBank while playing against her former team, with USA's Michelle Bartsch-Hackley - making her #CLVolleyW debut with the Turkish powerhouse - adding another 14. Lonneke Slöetjes top scored for the home side with 12 points.

Meanwhile, Allianz MTV Stuttgart survived a mighty scare in the hands of Poland's LKS Commercecon Lodz before coming back from a set down and 22-24 behind in the second to win 3-1 (17-25, 28-26, 25-16, 25-18) and climb to second place in Pool C, tied on wins but one point short of leaders Igor Gorgonzola Novara.

Stuttgart had to cancel three set points of Lodz in the second to avoid falling two sets behind.

The German side was led by USA's Simone Lee who scored the match high of 19 points - just one more than the 18 of Monika Bociek for Lodz. Stuttgart were dominant on the net, most notably in outblocking their opponents 16 to 9.

Earlier in the evening in Plovdiv, Maritza found themselves trailing Pool E leaders RC Cannes by a set, but rallied to convincingly take the game 3-1 (17-25, 25-18, 25-12, 25-21) with a solid performance in the next three.

This throws the pool wide open, ahead of Thursday's Match of the Week - the all-Russia clash between Uralochka Ekaterinburg and Dinamo Moscow.

Well-distributed scoring, led by Emiliya Dimitrova and Hristina Vuchkova (5 aces) who bagged 15 points each, was key to Maritza's great win - their second of the season, back-to-back after stunning Dinamo Moscow in the previous leg.

Maritza were dominant across all skills, but Senegal's Fatou Diouck scored the match high of 17 points for Cannes.

In Sibiu, C.S.M. Volei Alba Blaj edged France's Nantes VB 3-1 (27-29, 25-13, 27-25, 25-21), practically dashing any hopes the French side may have had for a ticket to the quarterfinals. Blaj could, in theory, even leapfrog Nantes for second place in Pool D - though in the best-case scenario for the Romanian side it would have to be on points ratio.

Blaj had the inititaive throughout the game, but Nantes rallied in the first set to cancel two set points of the Romanian side before taking the lead after their own third attempt. Fortunes were reversed in the third, when Nantes blew a 22-18 lead as the hosts came from behind to draw level before sealing it with an ace by Ramona Adelina Rus and a spike from the left off the opponents' block by Serbia's Bianka Busa. It was Busa again who brought it home in the fourth with back-to-back aces for the last two points.

Ioana Maria Baciu led the scoring for Blaj on a match high of 23 points, with Busa and fellow-Serb Maja Aleksic adding another 15 each.

And in Finland, Poland's Budowlani Lodz shut out local side Salo 3-0 (33-31, 25-21, 25-19) though both sides were already out of contention. The result leaves LP Salo still chasing their first ever victory in the competition.

Salo enjoyed the lead throughout the first set, but Budowlani were first to reach set point at 24-23. It took the Polish side five more to finish the set - in the meantime surviving the home side's three opportunities of their own.

Four players scored in double digits for Budowlani, with Ukraine's Anastasiia Kraiduba on 14 points just edging Julia Twardowska on 13. Salo's Croatian opposite Katarina Pilepic scored the match high of 20, as her side struggled in attack and conceded as many as 27 unforced errors (to Budowlani's 17).

Leg 5 of the 4th Round wraps up on Thursday with three more matches.

Match by match:

C.S.M. Volei Alba BLAJ (ROU) vs NANTES VB (FRA) 3-1 (27-29, 25-13, 27-25, 25-21)

"Before this match Nantes had more chances, came very motivated, but I am happy that my girls did not let them win here, especially since the defeat in France blocked our chances to qualify. This showed the real face of my team. It was very important that we got back in the first set, which was very close and lost by our own errors. We hope for a win in our last game against Vasas Budapest, to finish with three victories this season of the Champions League and especially to thank these wonderful supporters, who have made an extraordinary atmosphere today!"
Darko Zakoc, Alba Blaj head coach

"Hard match, very intense. I think the match was decided in set 3, that we should have won for probably a different final result. We made a lot of mistakes and maybe we don't have the level for qualifying to the quarterfinals yet. That is life, now we have to focus on the domestic championship and learn from today's mistakes. It is very difficult, because our qualifying dreams have been shattered!"
Cyril Ong Vathanara, Nantes VB head coach

Maritza PLOVDIV (BUL) vs RC CANNES (FRA) 3-1 (17-25, 25-18, 25-12, 25-21)

"We played with a lot of emotion, which came not only from the fact that we were performing in front of this great home audience or the euphoria from our victory in Moscow, but also from the situation in our pool, which made the three points mandatory for us. What is the most important is that we won and our players, although not all in the best possible shape right now, showed that they are world-class athletes."
Ivan Petkov, Maritza Plovdiv head coach
"The emotion is indescribable to win in front of so many people at home in Plovdiv. I am still feeling the goose bumps. I want to thank them for coming to the hall in this snowy weather and to invite them to do it again on February 18 for the game against Uralochka."
Zhana Todorova, Maritza Plovdiv libero
"It's not easy to play here. I think we made a very good interpretation of the match at the beginning and came out very aggressive. But after that Maritza came back as a new team and changed the situation. In some moments we just didn’t have enough strength. But nothing is finished and we’ll have another opportunity in the next match."
Riccardo Marchesi, RC Cannes head coach

LP SALO (FIN) vs Budowlani ŁÓDŹ (POL) 0-3 (31-33, 21-25, 19-25)

"I'm disappointed for the score. We came to win this game. Budowlani are a great team, but today we had a chance to beat them. Today we didn't play the way I know this team can, at its best. The opponent was a little bit tougher than us, in everything. In these games we need everyone to play well throughout the game, if we want to win."
Tomi Lemminkäinen, LP Salo head coach

"The first set was good, the feeling in the court was nice and the audience was with us. After losing that set, we didn't get the right feeling anymore. We came to this game only to win, so none of us should be satisfied. From every game, won or lost, you learn something. We have our next game in the Finnish Championship already tomorrow, so we have to forget this game fast."
Eveliina Rautiainen, LP Salo libero

"We were prepared for a tough game against LP Salo and didn't think it would be easy. We were prepared for some variations on how they would play, but in the first set we had big problems with our reception. We couldn't get our sideouts so it was our main problem. Later during the game we put more pressure through our service and this caused problems for Salo's reception."
Blazej Krzysztalowicz, Budowlani Lodz head coach

"In this game it was important not to make mistakes, because we knew the more we gave them pressure, the more they would make errors. It wasn't an easy game for us and I'm not happy with how we started the game. We weren't concentrated and precise and because Salo are a very good team, the first set was difficult. We had to really push and play our best to win this game."
Jaroslava Pencova, Budowlani Lodz middle blocker

Allianz MTV STUTTGART (GER) vs ŁKS Commercecon ŁÓDŹ (POL) 3-1 (17-25, 28-26, 25-16, 25-18)

"It didn't look like our game. We knew that if we do our stuff well and focus well enough and know what they're doing, we are good to go. Whenever we play in SCHARRena we have the full support and I think it is helping us a lot,  especially in not so good moments in the game."
Roosa Koskelo, Allianz MTV Stuttgart libero

"Stuttgart are pretty tall and hard-hitting, which made it hard for us. I hope that we can learn from the mistakes we made today. I have no idea what happened with the team that won the first set, but something in our heads changed. We just let Stuttgart play their game and get better and we stopped fighting."
Joanna Pacak, LKS Commercecon Lodz middle blocker

Savino Del Bene SCANDICCI (ITA) vs VakifBank ISTANBUL (TUR) 0-3 (26-28, 19-25, 21-25)

"It was a really tough game, I think VakifBank played a really strong match in serve. We had some trouble in reception and they also have a good block, so it was really hard to score points. You can see that in the score. There's still hope. We played some good rallies, we have to look forward."
Lonneke Slöetjes, Savino Del Bene Scandicc opposite

“They are a different team with the addition of Bartsch, and they proved it tonight. She is a player who gives great balance to the team. We played an excellent first set, just look at the data: we had exceptional attack rates. Some little details prevented us from winning the set. In the second set, they were good at serving on our weak points. In the third set, on the other hand, the injury sustained by Elena Pietrini demoralised us.”
Luca Cristofani, head coach of Savino Del Bene Scandicci

"I am very happy, because it was a very important match for us. We came here with some small physical problem, but the team was very focused, very motivated. We didn't like to lose the first match against SCANDICCI at home and today we entered the court with the right spirit, the right mood. We played pretty good volleyball."
Giovanni Guidetti, VakifBank Istanbul head coach

"It was a great game for us. I'm so happy, we have prepared for so long. This match was really important for the top place in the group, so we did a really good job. We changed a lot as a team, improved a lot. I'm super proud of everyone. We did great tactics and everything, it was really fun to play here. And in front of all the fans, people that I know from before, so it was great."
Isabelle Haak, VakifBank Istanbul opposite

Click here for further information on CEV Champions League Volley 2020.

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