Just like during last season’s opening round in the volleyball league, the Thessaloniki clubs have made a strong start, with PAOK beating champion Olympiakos in Athens, Aris downing Epikouros Polichnis and even Apollon Kalamarias snatching a point from Panathinaikos. Olympiakos lost in the opening round at home for the third year in succession, going down 3-2 to PAOK on Saturday after deciding not to use setter Andrey Zhekov due to poor fitness. PAOK won 20-25, 25-21, 25-16, 22-25, 15-13, using American setter Jonathan Winder, who had originally come to Greece this season for Olympiakos. Cupholder Panathinaikos found itself trailing 2-0 (25-23, 25-19) at Apollon Kalamarias on Friday, but bounced back (25-17, 25-18, 15-9) to get two points from this game out of a maximum three with a 3-2 victory. Another title contender, EA Patras also had a scare, dropping the first set to outsider Panellinios at home (25-22), but recovered to win 3-1 (25-13, 25-22, 25-16). Aris beat newly promoted Epikouros by the same score in sets (24-26, 25-19, 25-22, 25-22). In a balanced game at Kifissia, the host team downed Ethnikos Alexandroupolis 3-1 (25-20, 29-27, 20-25, 26-24) in a crucial match for the relegation battle. The first round concludes tonight with Iraklis hosting Lamia in Thessaloniki.