|Rome, Italy, April 30, 2017. Zenit KAZAN confirmed their dominance on the continental stage, winning the 2017 CEV Volleyball Champions League – Men gold without losing a set in the whole Final Four in Rome - and dropping only two since the start of their journey back in early December. On Sunday night at Palalottomatica, the Russian star-studded team defeated hosts Sir Sicoma Colussi PERUGIA 3-0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-14), thus netting their fifth continental crown (2008, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017) and third in a row - equalling the feat achieved by TRENTINO Volley between 2009 and 2011.
The hosts looked good early in set one, staying a step ahead of Zenit. A challenge by coach Lorenzo Bernardi did not let Aleksandar Atanasijevic’s ace go to waste (6-5). From 10-7 however, Zenit scored a series of points, evening it out at 10-10 and bagged one point after the other, while PERUGIA were frozen at the 13-point mark. KAZAN’s double and triple block was unpassable, while Maxim Mikhailov defied the home team’s own block to cash the first set ball at 25-15.
Neither team could break off from the opponent throughout set no.2. Atanasijevic set the score to 20-19 with an ace, got back where he started with the next one (20-20) only to redeem himself with a spike for a 21-20. PERUGIA’s challenge was a good call again at 22-21, but in the end Mikhailov’s powerful spike sealed the score 25-23.
The Russian team were two steps ahead of their opponents from the start of set three. After the first technical time-out (8-6) Wilfredo Leon scored four consecutive points from the service line to catapult his team even closer to the final victory. Zenit were working like a well-oiled machine and PERUGIA’s best efforts could not stop them from netting their third consecutive #CLVolleyM gold medal!
“There is actually no secret to our success,” Zenit KAZAN coach Vladimir Alekno said. “Right now, our club is extremely well-organised and has the means to recruit some of the best players in the world. This is where our success comes from. I would like to say that it is not always that easy for the players and coaching staff to cope with the pressure since the expectations are always incredibly high and everyone expects us to win. Our fans and management perceive a second place like some kind of complete failure, so the pressure is always on us. I am of course happy with the result and this gold medal.”
“I agree, right now we are the team to beat,” said outside spiker Matthew Anderson. “At least in Europe, since we still have to win the Club World Championship and this should be our next goal.”
The team captain of Sir Sicoma Colussi PERUGIA, Emanuele Birarelli, did not play because of injury and was rather laconic: “I think you could see that they were obviously too strong for us. That was the name of the game tonight.”