Zonal competitions in all three sports crown their champions in Europe and Asia

Check out last weekend’s zonal winners in snow volleyball, beach volleyball and volleyball

Zonal champions emerged in all three volleyball disciplines at zonal competitions in Europe and Asia over last weekend. The first-ever Balkan Volleyball Association (BVA) snow volleyball champions for men and for women were crowned in Bulgaria and the first-ever Middle European Volleyball Zonal Association (MEVZA) club beach volleyball champions for women triumphed in Slovenia. The indoor volleyball MEVZA League winners snatched their trophies by winning Friday’s finals in both genders, as  did the new West Asia men’s club volleyball champions on Saturday.

The women’s national team of Türkiye and the first men’s national team of Bulgaria claimed the historic titles at the BVA Balkan Snow Volleyball Championships 2023, held at the picturesque Mount Perelik in Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains on Saturday and Sunday. Four squads participated in each gender – Romania, Türkiye and two home teams, Bulgaria 1 and Bulgaria 2.

In the women’s final, Merve Celebi, Petek Civan, Seray Gurle and Simge Yalcin of the Turkish team claimed the gold after a 2-1 (15-10, 12-15, 15-11) win over Romania and finished the tournament unbeaten in all three matches. The Romanians, Briana Fekete, Ioana Miu, Ioana Hobodi and Roxana Bacsis, settled for silver. The bronze went to Bulgaria 1 (Elizabet Kasadzhikova, Iva Barganska and Veselina Kotseva) who managed a 2-0 (15-13, 15-8) victory over their compatriots Bulgaria 2 (Gergana Kinova, Kristina Karadzhova and Velislava Petrova) in the third place match.

Georgi Fisinski, Nikola Lazarov and Vilian Hadzhiev’s performance in the men’s tournament was a real treat to the home fans in Perelik. Playing in only the second tournament of their snow volleyball careers (last year they also won the first Bulgarian National Snow Volleyball Championship as Rodopa Smolyan), they went through the Balkan Championship undefeated and lifted Bulgaria 1 to the top of the podium. In a spectacular final, they came back from a set down against Romania to celebrate a 2-1 (9-15, 15-11, 15-13) victory and claim the crown. Bodgan Mehedinteanu, Bogdan Moroldo and Stefan Anton took Romania’s second silver at the event, while Türkiye (Ahmet Can Tur, Batuhan Kuru, Bilal Tanriverdi and Sacit Kurt) completed the podium after a 2-1 (15-9, 9-15, 15-8) win over Bulgaria 2 (Aleks Ushev, Anton Fisinski and Nikola Nikolov) in the bronze medal match.

As many as 10 teams from six different countries participated in another inaugural event, the first-ever MEVZA Women’s Beach Volleyball Club Championship in Ljubljana, exactly a month after the equivalent men’s competition broke new ground with eight teams playing in Vienna. The competition was played in a club vs. club format. Each match-up (tie) consisted of two regular duo vs. duo games (rubbers), played by two pairs from each club team. In the semifinals and the medal ties, in case each club ended up with one win after the two rubbers played, a golden set to 21 points decided the winner.

Hosts Ludus Ljubljana emerged as the first MEVZA club champions for women. A golden set decided Sunday’s big final in their favour, after the Slovenians took a 2-1 (21-19, 15-21, 15-13) victory over Patronka Bratislava in the first rubber, but the Slovakians levelled the tie with a 2-0 (21-17, 22-20) win in the second. The bronze was also decided in a golden set. It went to Czechia’s Sokol Brno after a 2-0 (21-15, 21-16) win and a 2-0 (21-16, 21-16) loss against Hungary’s Penta-KSE Budapest.

Ludus Ljubljana celebrate as MEVZA women’s beach volleyball club champions (Photo credits: mevza.org)

Hungary’s Swietelsky-Bekescsaba (team roster), on the other hand, became MEVZA club champions in women’s indoor volleyball. In Friday’s final played in the Slovenian city of Kamnik, they produced an emphatic 3-0 (25-17, 27-25, 25-16) shutout of hosts Nova KBM Branik Maribor. Middle blocker Dorottya Bodnar and Serbian opposite Marta Drpa led the team to victory with 14 points apiece. Bulgarian outside hitter Ralitsa Vasileva added another 10, including the match winner. It was Swietelsky-Bekescsaba’s third triumph in the MEVZA League.

A total of seven clubs from five different countries (Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia and Ukraine) took part in the 2022-2023 season of the women’s MEVZA League. After a single round-robin regular season, the top four teams advanced to the home-and-away semifinals, where Swietelsky-Bekescsaba edged Croatia’s HAOK Mladost Zagreb in a golden set, while the team from Maribor overcame the resistance of their compatriots from Calcit Volley Kamnik, also in a golden set.

Swietelsky-Bekescsaba celebrate as MEVZA women’s volleyball club champions (Photo credits: mevza.org)

Right after the women’s final, an all-Slovenian men’s final was played in Kamnik. ACH Volley Ljubljana (team roster) won their 13th MEVZA League trophy after a 3-1 (23-25, 25-18, 25-22, 25-23) comeback win over hosts Calcit Volley Kamnik. North Macedonian opposite Nikola Gjorgiev was ACH’s best scorer with 24 points, all in attack, while Calcit’s Cuban outside Luis Sosa produced a match-high 25.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s Al-Rayyan, snatched the trophy at the inaugural West Asia Men’s Club Volleyball Championship, which was held from 7 to 18 March in Amman. In Saturday’s final in the Jordanian capital, they surprised favourites Kuwait with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-20) shutout to earn the historic gold. The Kuwaiti club took the silver, while another Qatari team, Police Union Doha, took home the bronze medal after beating Bahrain’s Dar Kulaib in a hard-fought 3-2 (25-19, 23-25, 17-25, 25-17, 18-16) in the third place match. A total of nine teams from seven countries – Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Palestine and Qatar – took part in the competition, initially split in two round-robin pools. Four teams from each pool advanced to the quarterfinals.

Al-Rayyan’s Brazilian outside Marcus Vinicius was named Most Valuable Player of the championship, while the Dream Team was made up of setter Milos Stevanovic (Al-Rayyan), opposite Oliver Venno (Al-Rayyan), outside hitters Lui Libin (Kuwait) and Yousuf Oughlaf (Police Union), middle blockers Abdulaziz Najm (Kuwait) and John Chigbo (Police Union) and libero Abass Hassan (Dar Kulaib). Ali Ghanim Al-Kuwari, President of West Asia and Qatar Volleyball Associations, presided over the award presentation and closing ceremony.