The Battle For Europe's Most Prestigious Trophy Is Down To Four

As of Thursday night, only four teams remain in the hunt for Europe’s most prestigious professional trophy.

Vanquishing their quarterfinal foes and moving on the semis of the 2018-19 CEV Champios League are Zenit Kazan, Sir Colussi Sicoma Perugia, PGE Skra Belchatow, and Cucine Lube Civitanova. 

Trefl Gdansk of Poland’s PlusLiga pushed reigning Champions League gold medalist Zenit Kazan to five sets in both quarterfinal legs, even winning the second match in Kazan’s own gym and forcing a golden set. 

Watch the Men's CEV Championship LIVE on FloVolleyball

Kazan won the tiebreaker 15-12 and moves on to its ninth-consecutive Champions League semis, but the five-set loss to Gdansk marked the end of the Russian powerhouse’s 30-match win streak. 

Opposite Maxim Mikhaylov ranked third among all competitors with 49 total points for Kazan between the two matches. Team USA star outside Matt Anderson ranked fourth with 40 points and French outside Earvin Ngapeth had 33. 

The Russians may have earn the semifinal berth, but it was Trefl head coach Andrea Anastasi who had the quote of the night. “After such a match I want to thank all the mothers of my players, as they gave birth and brought up such good athletes,” he said. “I think it is the least you can say after such a brilliant performance.”

Anastasi’s Maciej Muzaj led all players in the quarters with 53 points.

In the semifinals, Kazan will face Sir Colussi Sicoma Perugia. The Italian league squad went to five sets with Chaumont VB 52 HM in the first leg of the quarters but earned the dominant sweep in the second leg. 

Wilfredo Leon earned MVP honors for the second-leg match in which he racked up 16 points (10 kills, five aces and a block). The Cuban outside hitter, who is one of the best players in the world at this moment, played for Kazan last year and will face his former employer in the upcoming semifinals. The match also represents a rerun of last year’s semifinal, which Kazan won in straight sets over Perugia, with Leon contributing a match-high 19 points for the Russian squad.

In the opposite semifinal, PGE Skra Belchatow of Poland and Italy’s Cucine Lube Civitanova face off. 

Lube’s sweep of Dinamo Moscow in the second leg of the quarters sends the current No. 3-ranked team in the Serie A standings to the Champions League semis for the fourth consecutive season.

Bulgarian Tsvetan Sokolov led Lube with 38 points between the two quarterfinal matches. Lube’s roster also includes American rookie Brenden Sander, but the BYU grad did not get any playing time in the quarters.

In its quarterfinal matchup, Skra came within inches of being eliminated by first-time Champions League team Zenit Saint Petersburg. After winning the first leg in four sets, Skra lost to Saint Petersburg in four, forcing a golden set. 

Behind a stellar showing by Jakub Kochanowski, Skra advanced to the semis with a 15-11 victory in the golden set. The 21-year-old had 30 points in total in the quarterfinal round, while Milad Ebadipour Ghara led Skra with 33 total points.

Champions League action starts back up with the first leg of the semifinals April 2-4 and the second leg April 9-11, determining once and for all which teams will play for gold on May 18 in Berlin.

Watch the CEV Champions League semifinals right here on FloVolleyball.

If I Were Karch Kiraly, This Would Be My Final Six Roster

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In the next week or so, USA head coach Karch Kiraly faces the difficult task of determining which 14 players from what is perhaps the world’s deepest pool of talent to bring with him to Nanjing, China, for the Volleyball Nations League Final Round, where the USA will seek to defend its 2018 title.

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Playing at home in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, the U.S. men’s national team finished Week 4 of the 2019 Volleyball Nations League with two wins and a loss and celebrated the season debuts of two veteran players. 

USA Punches Ticket To Final Six During Perfect Week

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In the final week of Volleyball Nations League preliminary play, the U.S. women’s national team collected three victories.

Trio Of College Stars Have Shined For Team USA

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When Karch Kiraly announced his 25-player roster for the 2019 Volleyball Nations League, three names—Jordan Thompson, Mary Lake, and Dana Rettke—stood out from the other, more familiar players on the list, for one very notable reason: the trio has not yet completed their college eligibility.

USA Men Roll Through France, Head Home On Four-Game Win Streak

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Just in time to return home and play in front of U.S. fans, the USA men were able to sustain a high level of performance. After managing just two wins in the first six matches, the Americans won all three matches in Week 3’s action in Cannes, France, to head into Hoffman Estates this weekend on a four-match win streak. 

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It’s the dawn of a new era for Argentina’s men’s volleyball team. A new coach is at the helm and FIVB VNL 2019 will be the first test. It’s also the world’s first real opportunity to see what Argentina is all about and in which direction the team is going.

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It didn’t start the way they would have liked, but Week 4 of Volleyball Nations League proved to be a solid one for the U.S. women as they scored two valuable wins over Poland and China after being swept by Turkey.

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Week 3 Preview: It's About More Than Wins & Losses For USA Men

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The U.S. Men’s National Team enters Week 3 of the 2019 Volleyball Nations League with a 2-4 record, sitting ninth in the standings. However, with a spot in the Final Six already secured as the host team, USA’s accomplishments can be measured in something other than wins and losses.