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With one day of action remaining the group stage of Champions League, only three teams have secured their spots in the quarterfinals of Europe’s top professional volleyball competition. The remaining five quarterfinalists will be determined by Tuesday’s matches.
The five pool winners and the top three second-place finishers will all advance to the elimination rounds. Turkish league superpowers Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul (5-0) and VakifBank Istanbul (4-1), as well as Imoco Conegliano (5-0) of Italy’s Serie A1, have performed well enough through the first five matches of their respective pools to guarantee advancement.
Among those yet to secure a spot is reigning champion Igor Gorgonzola Novara. The Italian team has a 4-1 record thus far and will play LKS Commercecon Lodz of Poland on Tuesday to conclude the group stage, and a win for Novara, which includes Team USA’s Micha Hancock and Megan Courtney, would send them to the quarters. Last time these two teams faced off — on December 17, 2019, in the third leg of Champions League pool play — Lodz pushed Novara to five sets, however, so Novara’s victory in Pool C is far from guaranteed.
Even if Lodz wins, however, the Polish team would finish second place in the pool at best, and have to hope to be one of the top three second-placers in the field.
Allianz MTV Stuttgart of the German Bundesliga will also be fighting to stay alive in its final Pool C match versus Khimik Yuzhny. The German team will be guaranteed a quarterfinal appearance with a three- or four-set win. Allianz’s roster includes a whopping five American players: Simone Lee, Jenna Rosenthal, Jennifer Hamson, Ainise Havili, and Krystal Rivers (who is the fourth-best scorer in the group stage with 83 points). Former University of Kentucky middle blocker Kaz Brown plays for Khimik.
In Pool A, Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul, which features Team USA’s Kelsey Robinson and Jordan Thompson, needs a win — even an ugly, five-set win — to make the quarters. The Turkish team’s opponent is winless LP Salo of Finland.
Savino Del Bene Scandicci currently ranks second in Pool B, trailing VakifBank, and also needs a win of any kind over its winless opponent Nova KBM Branik Maribor to advance. Former NCAA stars Alexa Gray and Samatha Bricio will suit up for Scandicci in this contest. On the opposite side of the net, recent University of Tennessee Tessa Grubbs is in the midst of her professional debut season with Branik.