The last couple of days have seen the first matches in various semi final matchups.
In Italy, Trento and Cuneo both won their opening matches with relative ease in front of home crowds of over 4000 in each city. Cuneo hit at 66% for the match which is a more than reasonable rate and makes me wonder how they lost a set. Trento overcame the absence of setter Oliveira and a below average (for him) performance from Kaziyski. On Wednesday the series will continue with Macerata and Treviso hosting.
In Greece, Aris found that battling karma as well as Panathinaikos was too much and lost the first match of the series easily. In the other semi final Olympiakos had an even easier time with Lamia, also winning 3-0.
In Poland it was a big TV night for me, with the two games being played back t0 back. In the first of the double header Jastrzębski Węgiel beat local rival Kędzierzyn-Koźle in four sets to win home court advantage back in the best of five series. The first two sets were reasonably close, neither team being able to keep the small leads they created with Kędzierzyn taking the first and Jastrzębski the second. Losing the second broke the resistance of Kędzierzyn who didn’t seem to have the fight to come back, a fact lamented loudly and publicly by their coach (here, if you want to test Google Translate). Igor Yudin struggled a little in attack and was changed during the second. In contrast Ben Hardy was close to his best, always ready to do the thing that was required to win at that moment, be it reception, defence, blocking or spiking. Watching him teamed with Russian Pavel Abramov as receivers is a great pleasure. The other semifinal was not nearly as entertaining. Rzeszów dominated the first set against Bełchatów and won easily. However the decisive point of the match occurred at 16-10 in the first when Rzeszów’s best player, Akhrem, sprained his ankle (I’m surprised no Polish fan has put this on youtube yet). Without him the match ceased being a contest and Bełchatów won the next three sets without problem. Rzeszów just couldn’t find a way through the Bełchatów block and defence and presuming Akhrem doesn’t somehow make a miraculous recovery it is difficult to see where they can make improvements in the 24 hours before the next game.
The Russian and German leagues are quiet right now, with the next matches not until the weekend.