Sada Cruzeiro's trio of Wallace (left), Lopez and Cachopa (right) during their match against Sao Jose

Ranked first and second in the Men’s Superliga regular season, Fiat Gerdau Minas and Sada Cruzeiro Volei filled the first two spots in the tournament’s semifinals after they ended their quarterfinal series with back-to-back victories this week.

Reigning world champions Sada Cruzeiro had no issues in making it to the semifinals as they topped Farma Conde Sao Jose 3-0 twice to win their series. On Wednesday, they secured a 25-16, 25-15, 25-20 road victory to clinch their spot.

Cuban outside hitter Miguel Angel Lopez led all scorers with 16 points (11 kills, three aces, two blocks), followed by outside hitter Rodriguinho Leao, with 13 (eight kills, three aces, two blocks).

“We played two very good matches against Sao Jose in which we served really well, reduced their side-out efficiency and managed to advance,” setter Fernando ‘Cachopa’ Kreling said. “I feel like we improved a lot as the season progressed and that makes us stronger for the semifinals.”

Sada will need to wait a little longer to know their semifinal opponents as the series between sixth-placed Volei Renata and third-placed SESI is tied at 1-1. The team from Campinas started strong with a 3-0 victory, but SESI responded with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-19) road win of their own on Thursday and created the need for a third match.

Opposite Darlan de Souza, the younger brother of Tokyo Olympian and 2019 FIVB World Cup MVP Alan, had a tremendous night, producing 24 points (all in kills) for the winners and reaching an extremely high 80% efficiency rate in offence. Another key to SESI’s victory was limiting Rio 2016 Olympic champions and Volei Renata stars Lucas Saatkamp and Evandro Guerra to just seven points each.

“I didn’t expect to score so many points,” Darlan commented. “We entered the court very focused and I think that reflected on how we played. We had a good week of training and we were confident, so now we prepare to win the third match at home and advance.”

Minas got to celebrate their presence in the semifinals with a clean, straight-set (25-23, 25-21, 25-22) victory over FUNVIC Natal on Thursday. The Belo Horizonte side had won the first encounter between the teams, last week, 3-1.

Minas were not able to rely on star opposite Leandro Vissotto, due to an injury, but his replacement, Michael Sanchez, came up big and delivered a match-high 15 points (13 kills, two blocks). Fellow Cuban Luis Elian, an outside hitter for FUNVIC, also produced 15 points, all in kills.

“This was probably the toughest match in the entire season and I’m proud we secured such an important result,” said Minas outside hitter Henrique Honorato. “We stuck together and remained focused despite all the noise their fans were making.”

As with Sada, Minas are yet to find out who their next opponents will be, as the series involving fifth-placed Apan Eleva Blumenau and fourth-placed Vedacit Volei Guarulhos remains open. Guarulhos won the first encounter between the two teams 3-0, but Blumenau fought back to pull off a five-set (25-18, 20-25, 16-25, 25-14, 15-13) victory on Wednesday and force a third and decisive match on Sunday.

Middle blocker Wennder Lopes had a tremendous performance with 18 points (eight kills, eight blocks, two aces) and got help from outside hitter Renan Bonora, who added 15 (12 kills, two aces, one block).

“It was a really important match and the fans helped us keep fighting until the end,” Cuban opposite Yordan Bisset commented. “We had some players coming off the bench really well and that helped us win. This result gives us a lot of confidence and we will try to win the third match on the road.”