CEV, Luxembourg. With the CEV Champions League Volley 2021 fast approaching and 20 teams competing from several different national leagues, it can be tough to keep up with all the moving parts of professional volleyball. That’s why we are sharing previews for every pool of the Champions League 4th round with the key transfers and the most important questions clubs are facing heading into the competition. Here it is for Pool B in the women’s competition.
A. Carraro Imoco Conegliano (ITA)
In: Sarah Fahr, MB (ITA)
Out: Chiaka Ogbogu, MB (USA)
Key Question: Did they miss the chance to add another piece and differentiate themselves among the elite teams?
No team has come closer to a Champions League title and missed out recently than Italian club Conegliano. After a devastating loss in the inaugural Super Finals in 2019, the star studded Italian club looked like a favourite in the 2020 season as well. They were undefeated and firing on all cylinders in pool play before the unfortunately premature end to the season. And as they say, if ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That was the strategy for Conegliano this offseason, retaining top level players like Paola Egonu, Robin de Kruijf, and Joanna Wolosz.
Fenerbahçe Opet Istanbul (TUR)
In: Bianka Busa, OH (SRB)
Out: Jordan Thompson, OPP (USA), Kelsey Robinson, OH (USA)
Key Question: Can Melissa Vargas establish herself as the top opposite in Champions League?
Out of the top five opposites in women’s volleyball right now, you could argue that three of them play in the top clubs of Turkey. The 21-year-old Cuban Melissa Vargas has been tearing up the Turkish league so far this season, establishing herself as the top scorer over names such as Tijana Boskovic and Isabelle Haak. The team has solid foundational players at every position such as Naz Aydemir and Eda Erdem, but lost one of them in American outside hitter Kelsey Robinson. Without her, Vargas will be relied on to score six points per set or more.
Calcit Volley Kamnik (SLO)
In: Martina Guiggi, MB (ITA), Andjelka Radiškovic, OH (BIH)
Out: Katja Mihalinec, OH, (SLO)
Key Question: Will the lack of big-name foreigners prevent them from breaking into the top tier?
Calcit Volley finds itself as a last-minute qualification from the 2nd round straight into a group with two of the best teams in the entire tournament. Matching up against the taller and stronger teams of Conegliano and Fenerbahce will be a tall order for the club, which has not qualified for Champions League since the 2016/2017 season. However, their roster is young, energetic, and athletic, and some strong performances from rising star Eva Zatkovic in the 2nd round suggest that they might be able to play top teams tight.
VB Nantes (FRA)
In: Sanja Bursac, OH (SRB), Carli Snyder, OH (USA)
Out: Lindsey Vander Weide, OH (USA),
Key Question: Will Carli Snyder be an upgrade for a team looking to make the next step?
For Nantes, they could consider last season a success. Despite not making the quarter-finals, they placed second place in their pool over Champions League powerhouse C.S.M Volei Alba Blaj. Only by 25 points, but still, it was impressive for a club that had participated in Champions League once before, finishing 14th in the 2014/15 season. Unfortunately, they will be losing their main offensive weapon, American outside hitter Lindsey Vander Weide. Nantes is bringing in Carli Snyder, the best outside hitter of French Ligue A the past two seasons, to fill the void and kept sensational Finnish setter Kaisa Alanko, but it is uncertain whether that will be enough to improve on last season.