Lopez overcomes SESI's block during Sada's victory (Photo: Agencia i7/Sada Cruzeiro)

Reigning world champions Sada Cruzeiro were in difficulty against SESI-SP in the Brazilian Superliga semifinals, but a strong performance by outside hitter Miguel Angel Lopez enabled the team to open the series with a win.

After a match of ups and downs, Sada were down 6-1 at home in the fifth set, but still found a way to turn the tables and pull out a 3-2 (25-21, 26-28, 25-22, 23-25, 15-11) victory and secure an early lead in the best-of-three series.

The Most Valuable Player of last year’s FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship, when Sada won their fourth world title, was the top scorer of the match. The 25-year-old Lopez scored 25 points, registering 22 kills, two aces and one block.

Rio 2016 Olympic champion and 2021 FIVB Volleyball Nations League MVP Wallace de Souza scored 16 (15 kills, one block), while outside hitter Rodriguinho Leao dropped 13 (11 kills, two blocks).

SESI had two players reaching 20 points in opposite Darlan de Souza, who had 18 kills and two aces, and outside hitter Victor ‘Birigui’ Cardoso, who produced 17 kills, two blocks and one ace.

“We knew it would be a tough match,” Sada Cruzeiro’s head coach Filipe Ferraz reflected. “It could have ended 3-0 or 3-2, but we knew SESI would demand our absolute best. They’re a team on the rise and use their serving power really well. It was tough, but I think our experience allowed us to have stability when trailing 6-1 on the fifth set.”

Another Cuban, opposite Michael Sanchez, was the standout in the other semifinal series, reuniting Fiat Gerdau Minas and Vedacit Volei Guarulhos. The 35-year-old opposite and Player of the Match scored 22 points (21 kills, one block) and helped Brazilian Cup winners Minas win 3-0 (25-21, 25-19, 25-19) at home.

“Winning at home was just the first step,” said Minas’ captain, Rio 2016 Olympic champion Willian Arjona. “We have to thank the fans because they were really supporting tonight. Our goal is to end the series on the road next weekend and keep progressing.”

The second leg of the semifinals will take place next weekend, with SESI hosting Sada on Friday and Volei Guarulhos playing at home against Minas on Saturday.