The start of the new season is tomorrow. The old playoff format is back (thank god...).
Same 14 teams we had last season. Short preview for each team:
Lokomotiv: They were not the best team last season but the best team when it counted (final 6). They look stronger this season and should at least make the final. Most of the team is the same from last season. Filishtinskaya, Smarzek and Busa are the big new names.
Moscow: Similar team to last season. With Vasileva and Begic back to two foreigners. IMHO they have the best options on OH position. Seems a waste of talent that Krotkova, Simonenko and Pipurynova probably wont be starter... Top 3 place is a must.
Kazan: The best team for most of last season and cup winner looks to be weaker. Startseva and Fedorovtseva left. Lazareva, Sperskaite and Lazarenko joined the team. Will be interesting to see whether Popova has a shot as a starting setter or not. Sperskaite had a mediocre season at Krasnodar hopefully the new club helps her to improve. Kadochkina should be healthy again and looked promising at the EC. Kostina and Zamanskaya from the youth team joined the first team. I think they both have the potential to be good allround OH. Still a top three team but might be not as strong at the beginning of the season.
Uralochka: Parubets is back. Almost the same team as last season (Anisova left, libero Karpol is back and replaces Pilipenko). Top 6.
Minchanka: 5th place last season. Almost the same team. Top 8 team.
Proton: Main changes on OH/OPP (Russu, Bavykina and Simonenka left, Lozo, Korzhova and O. Frolova joined). Most of the team is under 25. Looks like Maksimova is the starting OPP (Chernova might be an option too). Will be interesting to see how Marichev is going to play. 6th place of last season will be difficult to achieve.
Krasnodar: Several starting players left (Sperskaite, Khaletskaya, Lazarenko, Lazareva, Pipunyrova). Shevchuck and Kotikova joined. They have two young player on OPP but they did not impress in the first cup round. I hope they will improve during the season. For now Sukhoverkhova might be the best choice for OPP. Top 8 should still be possible.
Leningradka: Dijekame is the biggest new name. Three new MB and changes on libero position. But OH (comeback of Kutyukova) and OPP is more or less the same. Top 8.
Lipetsk: The surprise team of last season (7th after regular season) with new setters and changes on OH position. I hope Gorbunova is improving her reception skills and play OH. It is the comeback season for Malykh (joined during last season and barely played). Top 8 would be a surprise.
Enisey: More or less the same team as last season. They are lacking options in attack. 10th place after regular season last year. I do not expect them to do better this season.
Tulitsa: No major changes (Martiniuc and Bavykina joined). Not the best reception but pretty good offense. They had 8 wins last season. I think they can do slightly better this time.
Sparta: Captain Shatunova left. I don't know the new players but I think reception will be a problem. The will try to leave several teams behind them.
Zarechie: The youth team of the league got even younger. Most player are under 22 years old. They played surprisingly well agains Lokomotiv in the cup match. They will try not the end up on the last place.
Dinamo-Metar: The most important change is probably new coach Koshkin. I think he did a good job in Sakhalin. He can't do worse than his predecessors since the club had some terrible seasons. I don't know the setters but the rest of the team looks pretty capable. Their OPP (Akimova and Samoylova) are stronger than the OPP of the direct opponents (Zarechie, Sparta, Enisey). If all works well they could make top 10.
Leningradka-Krasnodar is probably the most interesting match of the first round (Leningradka is favourite). Proton-Lipetsk and Uralochka-Tulitsa might be interesting too.