The 2009-10 European club season finished up during the week with Zenit Kazan and Olympiakos Pireus winning the fourth games of the Russian and Greek finals respectively.
After shockingly losing game 3 in three very easy sets to Lokomotiv Belgorod, Kazan bounced back the following night with an equally emphatic 3-0 victory of their own (report, with link to match video, here). With it they won their third title in the four years of the Lloy Ball era to go with the Champions League title they won in the fourth, non championship, year. Reid Priddy pointed out on TheNetLive podcast during the week that the biggest league titles (Italy and Russia) have been won by setters who are 37 years old, Ball from Kazan and Nikola Grbic from Cuneo. If you add another 37 year old (Miguel Angel Falasca) from Polish league winners (arguably the three top leagues in Europe), Belchatow and it is clear that experience is just as important as quality for setters if you want to build a championship team. Of course, opposites who serve 6 aces are also useful, for example, Ball’s US teammate Clay Stanley who finished with 18 points, including the aforementioned 6 aces, to be top scorer.
To break the ‘old=good’ setter’s rule 33 year old Pavel Zagumny of Panathinaikos lost the Greek championships decider to 28 year old Simon Tischer of Olympiakos. By most standards, Zagumny is the better setter (not just because he’s older), but sometimes the other team has Ivan Miljkovic and there’s not much you can do. Miljkovic scored a more quiet 22 points in game 4 (at only 52% in attack) to outscore his direct opponent Agamez (20 points) for the first time in the series but the most important statistic, as always, is the 3 matches to 1 that Miljkovic’s Olympiakos won. With it he won the league MVP, and doubtless a big bonus from the Greek shipping magnates (really) who own the club. The Italian match report is here, and in the report are links to a series of videos of the final points, of the fans reactions, etc.
For interest sakes, some leagues play off all the positions in the league, with the bronze medal actually being important. In Poland the bronze medal series was between Resovia Rzeszow (losers of the semi finals against Belchatow) and Kedzierzyn Kozle (losers of the semi finals against Jastrzebski Wegiel). With the score at 2 matches to 0, 2 sets to 0 and 23-17, Kedzierzyn were within touching distance of the (slightly) coveted bronze. What then happened was one of the epic collapses of all time (maybe, but more likely if you don’t include Russian collapses) with Kedzierzyn losing 9 of the next 10 sets, including the deciding match at home 0-3, to finish the season empty handed. If you take into account that they finished the regular season in second place and that they led 2-1 in matches, 2-0 in game 4 before losing in the semi finals, it must have been a massively disappointed team that trudged to the changerooms at the end.
Ah… sport… for every winner there are multiple losers…