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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.
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.