2018 CEV European Men’s Volleyball Champions League Gold Medal Match
- Lube Volley Civitanova (ITA) def. Zenit Kazan (RUS) def. Lube Volley Civitanova (ITA)
- May 13th, 2018, BasketHall, Kazan, Russia
- Kazan wins 4th-straight Champions League title
- Match Summary
- Match Stats
It was not quite the comeback that Vladimir Alekno’s Russian National Team pulled out at the 2012 Olympics, fighting off championship point-after-championship point to an eventual gold, but his current employers Zenit Kazan will celebrate it just the same.
In front of a sell-out crowd of 7,000 at the BasketHall, the Russian champions and hosts of this year’s Champions League Final 4 Zenit Kazan won their 4th title in the last 4 years. Down as many as 4 points in the 15-point tie-breaker set, Kazan came back on Lube Volley Civitanova to win the 2018 title. Founded only in the year 2000, it already has 6 total European titles in its history. That is the second-most all-time (behind the now-defunct CSKA Moscow, which disbanded in 2009), and easily the most wins of this millennium. No other team has won more than 3 titles in the 2000s.
Kazan has won many titles in the last 4 years, sometimes by overwhelming talent. Sunday’s victory was one won in spite of their struggles, with their superstar outside hitter Wilfredo Leon ending his career with the Russian side with simultaneously one of the worst matches of his Zenit career, and one of the best and most memorable.
Leon was stymied early by Civitanova’s block, paralleling the bronze medal match where an Italian block stuffed a superstar. He had 4 shots blocked for points in the first set, with another 2 in the second.
Late in the 3rd set, though, he started to come alive, running off 3 straight points on a kill and 2 aces. By then, his team was in too deep of a hole to overcome, but his personal momentum shifted then-and-there.
Kazan was full of uncharacteristic mistakes early in the 4th, but Leon’s 6 points, and 9 from his teammate Maxim Mikhailov, was enough to pick up a hard-fought set win and force the tie-breaking 5th.
There, Kazan looked over and done with, down by 4 points at one occasion, but Leon wouldn’t say die.
That Civitanova was able to push Kazan so hard is a credit to Serbian Dragan Stankovic, who ended the match with 15 points, of which 13 came in the first and 3rd sets, including 5 blocks that stifled Leon early; another 4 blocks from Tsvetan Sokolov (on 29 total points), and unparalleled setting from American Micah Christenson, who set the table for an 61% team hitting percentage through the first 4 sets, though they wound up at just 54% (still higher than Zenit’s 51%) with a high-tempo offense run to perfection. In system, Civitanova was nearly unstoppable, and even out-of-system Christenson bailed them out with some acrobatic sets.
The sets all started off almost identically (the first 4 all had 8-6 Civitanova leads), but it was what happened thereafter that determined the outcome. Leon had the finishing point, twice on aces and once on a kill, in each of the 3 sets that Kazan won. Even when his offense wasn’t running, he found other ways to contribute to his team’s effort, playing astounding floor defense and contributing to the block early. As his offense picked up late in the match, his block began to fail him, but on balance, he was still the reason that Kazan was able to overcome a sloppy match.
Leon’s hitting percentage and hitting efficentcy in each set, which includes no shots blocked and just 1 error over the last 3 sets combined:
|Wilfredo Leon Hitting %||Wilfredo Leon Efficiency|
Both teams could have won the match handily with better serving. Civitanova had 20 errors to just 5 aces, while Kazan had 22 errors on 9 aces, with key mishits coming in key moments for both teams.
Civitanova had an advantage in hitting percentage and blocks (12-10), while the teams were about even in service (40% positive for Civitanova to 41% for Kazan).