The quarterfinals of the CEV Champions League made it pretty clear which regions serve as hubs for the best women’s professional volleyball in Europe.
Five months after the first match of the 2018-19 CEV Women’s Champions League, the field of 27 teams has narrowed to four: two teams from Istanbul and two teams located just 350 miles apart in Northern Italy.
Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul and Igor Gorgonzola Novara came through the quarterfinals 2-0, but both teams were pushed to five sets in the second leg of the quarters.
Fenerbahce, which features former USC outside hitter Samantha Bricio, eliminated Savino Del Bene Scandicci, current home to Swedish teenage star outside hitter Isabelle Haak and American Annie Mitchem.
Fenerbahce’s 19-year-old opposite Melissa Teresa Vargas Abreu led all players in the quarterfinal round with 56 points in two matches.
Another young player led the way for Novara. Paola Egonu, 20, ranked second among all scorers with 51 total points in the quarters. Her team, which includes American Lauren Carlini and Michelle Bartsch-Hackley defeated Allianz MTV Stuttgart of Germany’s Bundesliga 3-1 and 3-2.
The victories over Stuttgart earned Novara its first Champions League semifinal appearance.
In that inaugural semi, Novara will face VakifBank Istanbul. The reigning Champions League victor stumbled in the first leg of the quarters, losing in five sets to Dinamo Moscow, which is led by Russian superstar Nataliya Goncharova. The loss was the Turkish squad’s first Champions League loss since 2016, but it earned redemption (and then some) with a sweep of Moscow in the second leg, even holding the Russian team to just eight points in the third set.
VakifBank’s Zhu Ting was named MVP of the match, contributing 17 points in the sweep. Only her teammate Lonneke Sloetjes had more, tallying 16 kills, two blocks and an ace for 19 total points. Between the two quarterfinal matches, Ting collected 41 points, good for fourth among all players. Sloetjes ranked third overall with 45 points.
Fenerbahce’s semifinal opponent will be Imoco Volley Conegliano. In an even worse start to the quarterfinals than VakifBank, Imoco got swept by Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul in the first leg of the in Imoco’s home, Treviso, Italy. Eczacibasi’s Tijana Boskovic put away 25 points in the three-set match, while Imoco’s hitters racked up 14 errors.
In the rematch, American Kim Hill led the way for Imoco to stave off elimination, tallying 25 points in a four-set victory in Istanbul and 15-10 triumph in the golden set. Overall Hill ranked ninth among all scorers with 32 points in the quarters.
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.