Maritza cruises unbeaten through domestic half-season and starts prepping for CEV Cup

The women’s team of Maritza Plovdiv has done an (almost) perfect job during the first half of Bulgaria’s National Volleyball League regular season and can now completely focus on its next European challenge - the sixteenthfinals of the 2017 CEV Volleyball Cup.

The Yellow-and-Blues from Europe’s oldest living city have established a complete domination on the domestic scene. In their seven matches since the start of the NVL season, they lost only one single set – this week during their last game of the first half-season – at home against Slaviya Sofia. Although this 3-1 result and the team’s performance in the match were considered as somewhat of a setback by the coaching staff, the cheering fans were happy to greet their undefeated favorites and take a joint photo with them after the game.

Maritza is in the lead of the current NVL standings with seven wins, 21 points and a 21-1 set record. Interestingly, their “B team,” as the fans like to call it – Rakovski Dimitrovgrad, which entirely consists of rented Maritza players – comes second in the table with six victories in seven matches.

A long break in the NVL schedule is up, since the championship battles resume in late January. However, the players from Plovdiv will have little time to rest as they intensify their preparations for their upcoming matches on continental level.

The staff followed closely the first match between Italy’s Unet Yamamay Busto Arsizio and Belgium’s Gent Dames Ghent in the running stage of the CEV Cup, since Maritza’s next opponent will emerge from this clash. The Italians claimed a 3-1 win before the return match in Belgium next week.

“We do not know who our next rival is yet, so we keep an eye on both of them,” said one of Maritza’s star players, opposite Gabriela Tsvetanova. “I have no personal preference. We have to prepare equally well in either case.”

While two of the younger players, setter Yoanna Atanasova and outside hitter Ani Bozdeva, have been called to the Bulgarian U20 national team preparing for the upcoming world championship qualifications, the core of Maritza’s squad will stick together during the holiday season and work hard towards what they deem as their most important games of the season.

The reigning two-time Bulgarian champions are hoping to find some strong opponents and play some high-level international friendlies in the weeks before launching their CEV Cup campaign. “With all due respect to the other Bulgarian clubs, we need to test ourselves against foreign teams that are at the level of our next rival in Europe,” Maritza’s manager Boris Halatchev commented. “Other countries’ leagues do not have such long breaks, but we hope to saturate our schedule with many such international matches to help us grow further and prepare for the CEV Cup.”

In the meantime, earlier this week, VC Maritza Plovdiv was honored during the city’s traditional annual Athlete Ball. At the shining ceremony, during which Plovdiv’s best athletes of 2016 were awarded by the municipality, city mayor Ivan Totev handed Maritza president Iliya Dinkov a special plaque for the club’s contribution to the development of volleyball in Plovdiv.