CLVolleyM All-Star Team Vote: Head Coaches Nominees

Article Wed, Apr 24 2024
Author: Martyna Szydłowska

Only ten day left until the #SuperFinals in Antalya on May 5th, but the Volleyball fans can still cast their votes for the All-Star Team of the CEV Champions League Volley 2024 - Men. On the previous day we presented all players nominated by CEV analysts, however there is one more spot in the All-Star Team, as it wouldn't be complete without HEAD COACH! The strategists, planners, architects of the team success - they are the one to carry the biggest responsibility, they have to keep a cool head no matter what is happening on the court to figure out a way to move up from dead last. Our four nominees did an excellent job in this campaign leading their respective teams to the semi-finals or even to the SuperFinal. Let us introduce that last group of our nominees - the head coaches!

Gianlorenzo Blengini was appointed as the head coach of Cucine Lube Civitanova back in 2021, however he was in charge of the team already from 2015 to 2017. The 52-year-old Italian earlier led the Italian national team (2015-2021), winning Olympic silver in 2016. 

In this #CLVolleyM campaign he and Lube were a step from the SuperFinal, eventually losing in all-Italian semi-finals to Trentino. In the 4th Round Lube dominated in Pool E, having five wins (all in three sets) to their name and one - unexpected - defeat to Arcada Galati in one before the last pool game. Blengini quickly put the team back on the right track and in the quarter-finals they swept Halkbank Ankara by 3-1 twice.  Thus, they reached the semi-finals for the first time since the 2018/2019 season.

Marcelo Mendez is a creator of Jastrzębski Węgiel's success on the domestic and international stage in the last two seasons. The 59-year-old Argentinian is the most experienced and decorated head coach among our nominees. He has been combining the work at helm of the head coach of Jastrzębski Węgiel and Argentina's national team. Back in 2021 he led his national team to a historic bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Before moving to Poland in 2021 (when he was in charge of Resovia Rzeszów), he spent more than a decade - filled with national and international achievements - with Sada Cruzeiro. He took over Jastrzębski Węgiel in 2022, and built a powerful squad of Jastrzębski, starting their golden streak with the Polish SuperCup, the Polish Championship and the first ever #CLVolleyM SuperFinal last year. 

In this edition of the #CLVolleyM, Jastrzębski won Pool D, losing on their way to the quarter-finals one game against Las Palmas, unexpectedly. He kept the team in check as their quarter-final opponent was a prominent star-studded Piacenza. On Italian soil, Jastrzębski battled hard, eventually losing in tie-break, but in front of the home crowd they showed no mercy to the Champions League rookies, winning 3-0. Mendez prepared a perfect strategy for the semi-final clash against Ziraat Bank Ankara and his team in Jastrzębie-Zdrój swept a straight-set win. In Ankara his team withstood a pressure winning in extra time two first sets to book a spot in the SuperFinals and despite rotations in the squad they emerged victorious in tie-break, too. The most important mission is ahead of Mendez in his team as they have a chance to win a maiden #CLVolleyM trophy.

Fabio Soli recorded a fabulous debut in the Champions League. He was appointed a head coach of Trentino Itas in 2023 and immediately in his first season with the team led it straight to the SuperFinal. Although this season is his first in the #CLVolleyM, the 44-year-old has the European trophy in his cabinet, as he won the Challenge Cup in 2018 with Monza.

In this #CLVolleyM season, Trentino dominated the rivalry in Pool B, winning it with five wins and losing only the last game against Rzeszów in tie-break.  Despite the injury of their setter Riccardo Sbertoli in the quarter-finals, Soli quickly rearranged the team, so they could continue their successful story, giving no chance to Berlin Recycling Volleys and beating them twice in straight sets. In the all-Italian semi-finals they took advantage of the home court, winning the first battle 3-1, and then in Civitanova they dotted the i's, booking a spot in the SuperFinal, despite losing the re-match in tie-break. Now they focus on the most important battle with Europe's elite trophy at stake.

Mustafa Kavaz, who in the past (2011-2014) was a player of Ziraat Bank Ankara, took over the helm of the head coach in Ziraat in 2021. The 41-year-old Turk strengthened his squad with Matthew Anderson and Oreol Camejo ahead of this season and these efforts paid off, as the team under his guidance for the first time in history reached the Champions League semi-finals.

Ziraat Bank Ankara couldn't imagine the better start of the #CLVolleyM campaign. They were the only team to complete the 4th Round undefeated, they beat twice the defending champions - Grupa Azoty Zaksa Kędzierzyn Koźle (3-2 in Ankara and 3-0 in Kędzierzyn Koźle). In the quarter-finals they dropped only one set against Las Palmas, but their journey was stopped in the semi-finals by Jastrzębski Węgiel. Although this upset, the team achieved another milestone in their history, progressing to the semis.