VIDNOJE (EuroCup Women) -
Back in the competition for the first time since winning it back in 2007, the Russian side have been pitched against the ambitious Istanbul Universitesi in what looks to be the standout tie of the Eighth-Finals.
With an array of rising Russian talent including national team players Ksenia Tikhonenko and Daria Namok, as well as former FIBA Europe Young Women's Player of the Year Emma Meesseman and Slovenia ace Nika Baric, Sparta&K wrapped up their regular season by pounding Orduspor 81-48.
It was a display which delighted head coach Alexander Vasin, who continues to receive plaudits for the way he continues to utilise his young team - both in EuroCup Women and in the uber-competitive Russian League.
"I am happy with how my players played and I am also satisfied with the final result and score," he said.
"But the truth is, I am also very satisfied with Stefanie Dolson's return to our roster after recovering from a very recent injury - mainly because she is an integral part of this team.
"To the best of my knowledge, we are the youngest team in the EuroCup Women and we have made many heads turn and notice us.
"If these young girls continue working as hard, then I believe we will celebrate more victories," added Vasin.
One Russian club who don't find themselves in the next phase of the competition are two-time reigning champions WBC Dynamo Moscow, who failed to advance.
Meanwhile, the team who will be truly kicking themselves most for not making it through will be TSV 1880 Wasserburg, who were beaten in stomach-churning fashion after going down 62-61 at home in their last game to Nantes Reze.
Emma Cannon produced arguably the most phenomenal performance of the regular season with 27 points and 22 rebounds in a bid to inspire the German club, but they came up agonisingly short.
Seven countries are represented in the Eighth-Finals, with Turkey accounting for four of the 16 clubs and there are three teams who have sailed through to this stage without tasting defeat - namely Castors Braine, Villeneuve d'Ascq and UE Sopron.
Other ties which catch the eye are two relative derby encounters between French and Belgian neighbours.
Firstly the legendary Ann Wauters will return to her homeland in a Villeneuve vest to face Namur, with tournament newcomers Castors Braine - who finished with the highest ranking - matching-up against Flammes Carolo Basket who are based in Charleville-Mezieres.
Pairings for EuroCup Women Eighth-Finals:
Flammes Carolo Basket (16) v Castors Braine (1)
Belfius Namur Capitale (15) v Villeneuve d'Ascq (2)
Udominate Basket (14) v UE Sopron (3)
PEAC-Pecs (13) v Besiktas (4)
Istanbul Universitesi (12) v Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje (5)
Chevakata (11) v Maccabi Bnot Ashdod (6)
Nantes Reze (10) v Adana Botas (7)
Spartak M.O. Noginsk (9) v Mersin (8)
The home and away games of the Eighth-Finals will be played on 15 and 22 January 2015, with the higher ranked club to play the return leg at home.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty images