I have been watching quite a bit of the Russian league this season. It is really interesting for a number of reasons.
Of course, the quality is high. In some cases very high. It seems there are hundreds of good Russian players. They are all big, strong and highly skilled. And interchangeable. If one player is having a poor game, another player almost exactly the same will come in and there will be no discernible change in quality. In fact often you will wonder why the second guy wasn’t a starter to begin with. All players, no matter how big or how small or which position have great basic technique. Reception is good, middle blockers can control the ball and non setters can set.
There is a lot of power. A lot. And a lot of tipping. But not much in between. In some leagues you can see spikers use different tempos and rhythms and speeds to create an advantage over the block, but in Russia it is just power. Or tip. And they are very good at both.
The foreign players are really good. Because there are only two foreign players allowed per team and the Russian league plays the highest salaries, the foreign players are amongst the best. In effect that means a lot of the US Olympic gold medallists (Ball, Stanley, Priddy, Lee, Rooney, Hansen), plus the odd Brazilian gold medallist (Dante).
Stylistically, the teams are similar. With a lot of players from one country (ie Russians), you would expect that. However, while there are no clashes of styles that you might see in other leagues (due to a greater variety of foreigners), or in the Champions League, there is a really strong sense of heavyweights beating the hell out of each until one of them falls over. That turns out to be quite entertaining.
Although the volleyball is entertaining, the telecasts are much less so. It seems that the basic production technique of finding the attractive people in the crowd to show in breaks of play hasn’t yet climbed over the remains of the iron curtain. My guess is that the director asks his cameramen to find the oldest or least interested members of the crowd to show. Or sometimes the strangest, including one Goth girl who was the ‘star’ of one match. But the cheerleaders are good and the games too.
The semi finals are starting this weekend between Kazan (Ball, Stanley), Novisibirsk (Priddy, Lee), Belgorod and Dynamo Moscow (Dante). Kazan are the favourites but anyone could win. It will be a good playoffs.