Finals – Russia and Greece

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…

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5 thoughts on “Finals – Russia and Greece

  1. Hugh Nguyen

    Great write-ups Mark. I have been really enjoying reading about what it’s like at the business end of the year in these european leagues. Could have only been better if we got to read about Franken being part of the action too!

    I always expected multi-game series to be like in the NBA where every match is intense, but it seems some of these matches are error prone with at least one team not playing at it’s best and players and coaching staffs exhausted. It’s good to see from the writeups that at least one team plays well in the deciding match!

    Really felt for the Jastrzebski guys who made such an epic comeback only to fall a bit short.

    Truly felt for the Jastrzebski who had

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  2. markleb Post author

    Thanks.
    Firstly, all the matches are intense. They’re just not always the highest quality.
    The NBA comparison is interesting. I really don’t know enough about it to know what the quality is like in the playoffs. One point is that in the NBA the season slows down in the playoffs. They travel less, play less. In some volleyball leagues, the opposite occurs. For example in Poland, the regular season is 18 matches spread from October to March, with never more than one match per week. In the playoffs, the intensity is completely different. They play consecutive days with only three or four days between sets of matches. After six months of playing Saturday – Saturday with maybe a midweek European Cup match on Wednesday (maximum two games per week), in the finals they played Thursday-Friday-Monday-Tuesday (four games in six days).
    I talked to the coach that in a way you need a completely different type of team to be successful in the playoffs than you do in the regular season. Which of course isn’t really practical, but still…

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  3. Hugh Nguyen

    Hardly practical or a logical way to determine the best team, but as a filmmaker i can say that what makes for great drama and entertainment rarely has much to do with practicality and truth!

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  4. markleb Post author

    Maybe you have stumbled onto why sport is so compelling to so many people.
    By the way, I found this quote yesterday from Stan Van Gundy about NBA playoffs.
    “What people lose sight of is the playoffs are a different deal. Age tends to show more in the regular season where you play four games in five nights, or you play six games in nine nights or something like that, and guys get a worn down and you’re criss-crossing the country and the whole thing. You get to the playoffs and you’re never playing back to back, you’ve got time off between games, your travel is much more limited and when you do travel you’re in one place for three or four days. All of that stuff adds up to a lot less fatigue, and it makes it a lot easier on guys. That’s why you see everybody’s main guys play more minutes in the playoffs and showing fewer signs of fatigue.”

    Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/ian_thomsen/05/21/countdown.playoffs/1.html#ixzz0olfEI6CY
    Get a free NFL Team Jacket and Tee with SI Subscription

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  5. markleb Post author

    I love how when I copied that, it included the link.
    Not sure about the team jacket bit though.

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