Final Four Team Preview: Volgaburmash Seem Unstoppable

30 March 2006
By Jeff Taylor, PA Sport

BC Volgaburmash look unbeatable.

When they are turning on all cylinders, no team should have a chance against them. A team in the Samara region near the Volga River, Volgaburmash attract the best because they pay well and because the top players know they are going to win.

Russian international center Maria Stepanova, who has scored at a clip of 14 points per game and averaged 11.2 rebounds and 2.42 blocks, has been the cornerstone of the team.

She is one of the top players in the world, but to call the rest of the team her supporting cast would be silly because most are superstars in their own right.

2005 FIBA Europe Player of the Year Maria Stepanova
Samara's Maria Stepanova was selected as the 2005 FIBA Europe Women's Player of the Year
Consider Belgian international center Ann Wauters, who averaged a team leading 15.7 points while also pulling down 7.35 rebounds per game.

She and Stepanova give Volgaburmash a twin-tower combination that scores, rebounds and defends.

Amaya Valdemoro is their gung-ho Spanish international forward who plays at two speeds - fast and faster. Her end-to-end style is so exciting that it's worth the price of admission just to watch her play.

In the EuroLeague Women this season, Valdemoro averaged 12 points while also leading the team in steals with 20 in 12 games.

There is the hugely talented French point guard Edwige Lawson, a player who must feel as if she has hit the jackpot. Lawson has the luxury of spreading the ball around to terrific players who
usually score. She has averaged 9.5 points and 4.4 assists.

Add three more Russian internationals to the mix, including the outstanding three-point shooter Olga Arteshina (23 of 52, 44.2%), and the all-round stars Svetlana Abrosimova and Ilona Korstin, and you understand why some people think Volgaburmash are unbeatable.

The team has depth, unlimited options on offense and tough defensive players.

At least once this season, however, looks proved to be deceiving. MiZo Pecs defeated them 80-68 on November 3.

Volgaburmash did not have an injured Valdemoro, but that was no excuse. On a rare occasion, the best rebounding team in Europe got out-rebounded 32-28.

Volgaburmash have not lost since, however.

That includes eight straight wins in the qualifying round of the EuroLeague Women, and then two-game sweeps of Dexia Namur and Dynamo Moscow in the eighth-finals and quarter-finals, respectively.

In the Russian Superleague, Volgaburmash have not lost all season, winning all 21 games en route to a quarter-final tie against Shelen Krasnoyarsk. They are also in the Russian Cup for Women.

There is already silverware in the cabinet for Volgaburmash this season.

They won the FIBA Women's World League crown for the second year running.

Volgaburmash will be favoured against Lietuvos Telekomas in the Final Four and then, they could end up in a rematch of last year's final against Gambrinus Sika Brno although 2004 winners US Valenciennes could beat the Czechs to the championship game.

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