The field has narrowed once again in the race for the 2019 CEV Women’s Champions League title.
The home-and-away quarterfinal round begins on March 12, and the eight remaining contenders include the tournament’s reigning champions (of the previous two years) VakifBank Istanbul, and two other teams from Turkey’s professional league. Italy’s Serie A1 is also represented by three times, while one team each from Germany and Russia made the cut.
Here’s a breakdown of what to expect in each of the four quarterfinal matches, and when you can tune in to watch the action live, right here on FloVolleyball.
Quarterfinal #1: Allianz MTV Stuttgart vs. Igor Gorgonzola Novara
March 12 @ Stuttgart, 12 p.m. CT
March 21 @ Novara, 1:30 p.m. CT
The first women’s quarterfinal is a great one to tune into for fans of Team USA players. Allianz MTV Stuttgart features five Americans, the most of any team in Champions League: Sarah Wilhite-Parsons, Krystal Rivers, Madi Bugg, Paige Tapp and Molly McCage.
Rivers has been far and away the top player for Stuttgart, which is currently undefeated in the German Bundesliga, and went 4-2 in Champions League pool play. The former Alabama All-American led Stuttgart and ranked eighth among all scorers in the group stage with 95 points. She also just resigned with Stuttgart, committing to two more years with the club.
Former Texas middle McCage ranked second on the Stuttgart roster with 52 points in Champions League, and Stanford grad Bugg serves as the team’s starting setter.
For Novara, Italy’s young opposite Paola Egonu stacked up 63 points in the group stage, and Team USA’s Michelle Bartsch-Hackley added 53 of her own. If those numbers seem low compared to Rivers’ tally, consider that Novara made short work of every opponent in the group stage, winning all six matches in straight sets. Four-time Wisconsin All-American Lauren Carlini started every Champions League match and ranked as the third-best setter in the group stage.
Quarterfinal #2: Dinamo Moscow vs. VakifBank Istanbul
March 13 @ Moscow, 10 a.m. CT
March 20 @ Istanbul, 10 a.m. CT
There is perhaps no professional women’s volleyball team as fearsome as VakifBank Istanbul. The reigning Champions League victors two years in a row also won the 2018 FIVB Club World Championships with a stacked roster that includes China’s Zhu Ting, USA’s Kelsey Robinson, Netherlands’ Lonneke Sloetjes and Serbia’s Milena Rasic.
Robinson, who played libero last summer for the U.S. women’s national team, ranked third on the VakifBank stat sheet with 64 points in the group stage.
VakifBank’s unlucky quarterfinal opponent, Dinamo Moscow, is led by Nataliya Goncharova, who blasted 153 points on the way to a 5-1 record in pool play. The Moscow roster features just two non-Russian players: Czech outside Helena Havelkova and Serbian setter Maja Ognjenovic.
Quarterfinal #3: Savino Del Bene Scandicci vs. Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul
March 13 @ Scandicci, 11:30 a.m. CT
March 19 @ Istanbul, 11 a.m. CT
In the most evenly matched pool of the entire group stage, Scandicci came out on top with a 4-2 record, and 19-year-old Swedish opposite Isabelle Haak led the team with 142 points, trailing only Goncharova on the top scorer list. Scandicci’s roster also includes former Hawaii player Annie Mitchem, who played in two Champions League group stage matches, collecting 13 points.
Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul enters the quarters having gone 5-1 in pool play, its one loss a five-setter to Dinamo Moscow. Nineteen-year-old Cuban phenom Melissa Vargas led the team and ranked third among all scorers with 137 points. Former USC star outside hitter Samantha Bricio had 111 points, fifth among all scorers.
Quarterfinal #4: Imoco Volley Conegliano vs. Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul
March 13 @ Conegliano, 1:30 p.m. CT
March 19 @ Istanbul, 8 a.m. CT
Another great quarterfinal matchup for USA fans looking to see their favorite American players in action, this one features Kim Hill and Karsta Lowe (who replaced an injured Megan Easy) for Imoco and Jordan Larson and Lauren Gibbemeyer across the net wearing orange and black.
But the talent on display in this one doesn’t end with the Americans. Croatian Samanta Fabris led Imoco with 91 points in pool play, while Robin de Kruijf of the Netherlands ranked second on the team with 66 points. On the Eczacibasi side, Serbia’s Tijana Boskovic ranks sixth among all players with 102 points in group play and Korea’s Yeon-Koung Kim added 87.