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 E in the women’s competition.
Dinamo Ak-Bars KAZAN (RUS)
In: Samantha Bricio, OH (MEX)
Out: Bethania De la Cruz, OH (DOM)
Key Question: Will Samantha Bricio stabilize the reception in Kazan?
The newly named Dinamo-Ak Bars Kazan (formerly Dinamo Kazan) had finally found their footing last season in a post Ekaterina Gamova world, finishing first in the Russian Superleague and Russian Cup. The heir apparent to the legendary Russian opposite was Croatian Samanta Fabris, whose physicality fit in well with the demanding Russian league. Joining her this year is Mexican outside hitter Samantha Bricio coming from Scandicci. The highly pedigreed wing will give Kazan a chance of winning their first title since 2014.
Groupa Azoty Chemik POLICE (POL)
In: Jovana Brako?evi? Canzian, OPP (ITA), Agnieszka K?kolewska, MB (POL)
Out: Gyselle Silva, OPP (CUB), Iryna Trushkina, MB (UKR)
Key Question: Will high profile signings vault them into medal contention?
Last season was one of Police’s best, finishing at the top of the Polish league in the truncated season. This year they are looking to build on that momentum, signing two huge names from the Italian league to battle once again for supremacy in the Polish league. The first is Jovana Brako?evi?, a heavy-arm opposite who featured in Novara’s offense, and the second is Agnieszka K?kolewska, a mainstay on the Polish national team who anchored Scandicci’s block. These two might be the push Police needs towards the semi-finals this year.
Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA (ITA)
In: Britt Herbots, OH (BEL), Nika Daalderop, OH (NED), Haleigh Washington, MB (USA), Malwina Smarzek-Godek, OPP (POL)
Out: Elitsa Vasileva, OH (BUL), Stefana Veljkovi?, MB (SRB), Megan Courtney, OH (USA), Jovana Brako?evi? Canzian, OPP (ITA)
Key Question: Will elite serving allow them to repeat their 2019 title?
Unlike Italian league rivals Conegliano who decided that consistency was the best path forward, Novara revamped their roster with some high profile signings. The headline of these was young Belgian outside hitter Britt Herbots, who at the tender age of 21 is already the undisputed star of the Belgian national team and was the second leading scorer at outside hitter in Serie A1 Women last season. However, the only outside hitter ahead of her is Elitsa Vasileva, the physical Bulgarian who Britt will be replacing. Herbots will have a lot of high expectations but she will be well supported by American setter and ace machine Micha Hancock.
VK UP OLOMOUC (CZE)
In: Katarina Pilepi?, OPP (SRB), Lucie Nová, OH (CZE)
Out: Eva Hodanová, OH (CZE), Martina Michalíková, OH (CZE)
Key Question: Will bringing in talented foreigners take them to the next level?
After a solid second place finish in the Czech Extraliga last season, VK UP Olomouc has the monumental task of trying to place at the top of a group featuring some of the most talented volleyball players on the planet. They are hoping that players like Katarina Pilepi? and Lucie Nová can help them score points against the rock-solid defenses of Novara and Police, but many have tried and failed to do the same the past few season. Watch all matches live on EuroVolley.tv