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The opening round of action in volleyball's first division last night saw favorites Hapoel Kiryat Ata and Maccabi Tel Aviv taken to five games as they struggled to beat weaker opponents.

Hapoel Kiryat Ata, the favorite to lift the league crown following the demise of Mateh Asher, battled to get past Hapoel Kfar Sava (22-25, 25-21, 25-19, 20-25, 15-11), which was relegated last season, but regained its first division spot after Ra'anana declined promotion.

Maccabi Tel Aviv, another team expected to put up a fight for a top spot, hosted Hapoel Emek Hefer/ Menashe, which turned up with only 8 players, four of them high school students. But even against a weakened team with no foreign players, Maccabi was taken to five games (25-16, 24-26, 25-13, 34-36, 15-8). Maccabi's Dani Friedman was sent off for talking back to the referee.

Hapoel Be'er Sheva/Hatzor scored a 3-1 away win against Maccabi Hod Hasharon and ASA Be'er Sheva lost 0-3 to fellow newcomers Beit Shean.