Plovdiv, Bulgaria, March 8, 2017. The regular season in the Bulgarian women’s National Volleyball League (NVL) is now over and the defending champions from Maritza PLOVDIV have continued to reaffirm their total domestic domination all throughout the fourteen legs of action before the playoffs. They have lost only one set in fourteen games so far and have already secured their spot in the semi-finals.
The Yellow-and-Blues from Europe’s oldest living city defeated CSKA SOFIA on Tuesday to wrap up a record-breaking season with 14 consecutive wins and 42 points on top of the standings. The Reds from Bulgaria’s capital, the most decorated club in the country’s history, had arrived in Plovdiv hoping for a 3-0 or 3-1 win, which would have placed them second in the table, but Maritza left them no chances, pushing them down to the third place with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-10) shutout.
“I am very happy about our achievement this regular season and I hope we continue through the playoffs as planned in order to please our fans with another title and the national cup,” said Maritza’s opposite hitter Gabriela Tsvetanova after the victory over her former club. “A lot of work – that’s the key to our success. We have high-level players, but we never stop training hard, practicing new things, polishing old problems and growing.”
The team that would have been Maritza’s opponent in the quarterfinals, BURGAS 2007, withdrew from the NVL midseason, so the squad from Plovdiv is already looking towards the semi-finals. There they will face the winner of the playoff series between fourth-placed KAZANLAK Volley and fifth-placed Slaviya SOFIA.
The other two quarterfinal matchups will feature regular season runners-up Rakovski DIMITROVGRAD, a team that consists mainly of players on loan from Maritza, against seventh-placed YEB SHUMEN 05, and the “eternal derby” between the capital clubs of CSKA SOFIA and Levski SOFIA. These best-of-three playoffs will start on Thursday, but after they are finished, a long break in the competition will follow in order to allow the Bulgarian youth national team enough time to prepare for the Final Round of the 2017 CEV U18 Volleyball European Championship – Women scheduled for April 1-9 in Arnhem (NED). The first leg of the semi-finals is due to take place on April 19.
“I would not say such a long off-period is normal, but we will cope with the situation,” Maritza’s head coach Ivan Petkov commented. “We will take some rest for five days and then we will continue following our work plan. Maybe we will play some friendlies against foreign teams to help us prepare for the playoffs in the best possible way.”