Thaisa

Two-time Olympic champion Thaisa remains a key player for Minas (Photo: Wander Roberto/Inovafoto/CBV)

The men started last weekend and now it’s time the women hit the courts in the 2021-2022 Brazilian Superliga as the 28th edition of the tournament starts on Thursday.

The national title will be contested by 12 teams. The league will feature six players who were part of the Brazilian squad that took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, nine Olympic champions (including star coaches Jose ‘Ze Roberto’ Guimaraes and Bernardo ‘Bernardinho’ Rezende) and 21 Olympians from six countries.

The regular season, in which teams will face each other twice, will be completed in mid-March, ahead of the playoffs, which will reunite the top eight clubs. The best-of-three final series is scheduled to take place between late April and early May, before the start of the international season.

The title will most likely remain within the country’s ‘top four’, as has been the case since 1999. Itambe Minas, who won the last editions, will try to extend their dominance for another year and triumph for the fourth time. The team coached by Italian Nicola del Negro has made minor changes since season, with the most noticeable being the arrival of Turkish Olympian Neriman Ozsoy to replace American Megan Easy at the outside hitter spot. The team managed to keep its core, formed by two-time Olympic champion Thaisa Menezes, Tokyo silver medallists Carol Gattaz and Macris Carneiro, and Rio 2016 Olympian Leia Nicolosi.

Praia Preview

Praia have already lifted three trophies in the recently-started season (Photo: Cristiano Andujar/CBV)

Dentil Praia Clube, who challenged Minas in the last two finals, enter the league with a very high level of confidence after prevailing over their in-state rivals to take the titles of the South American Championship, the Brazilian Supercup and the Mineiro Championship over the last two weeks. Continuity was also the strategy for Praia as they were able to keep most of their stars, including Dominican sisters Brayelin and Jineiry Martinez, Tokyo silver medallist Ana Carolina ‘Carol’ da Silva and Dutch Olympian Anne Buijs. The exception was Olympic champion Fernanda Garay, who took a break in her career.

Five-time Superliga winners Osasco Sao Cristovao Saude, on the other hand, have a new look heading into the season after the departures of Olympic medallists Jaqueline Carvalho, Roberta Ratzke and Ana Beatriz ‘Bia’ Correa. On the other hand, veteran Luizomar de Moura, who coached Kenya at the Tokyo Olympics, will have the strong middle blocker duo of Fabiana Claudino and American Rachael Adams, experienced setter Josefa Fabiola Souza and prolific scorer Tiffany Abreu who join fan favourite libero Camila Brait on the court.

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Signing Fabiana was Osasco's most important move ahead of the season (Photo: Osasco)

The winningest team in the country with 12 national titles, Sesc Flamengo will have to work harder than ever to add another trophy to their collection this season. The team coached by Bernardinho lost five important players in Fabiola, opposite Lorenne Teixeira and outside hitters Amanda Campos, Ana Cristina Souza and Drussyla Costa and will count on trusted younger players to replace most of them. The exceptions were Dominican Olympian Yonkaira Pena and veteran opposite Monique Pavao, who return after having had success in previous stints with the club.

The only top team in the country still looking to lift the Superliga trophy for the first time, Sesi Volei Bauru also enter the season without some important players, like Dominican star libero Brenda Castillo, Azeri opposite Polina Rahimova and Bulgarian outside hitter Dobriana Rabadzhieva. Drussyla and Azeri outside hitter Odina Aliyeva were the main additions to the team, who still count on Olympic champions Dani Lins and Adenizia Ferreira and national team player Mara Leao.

Among the seven other teams, Barueri, who are coached by Ze Roberto and feature players no older than 25, is one of the most interesting to follow. Some popular veterans are also spread over the two other teams including Beijing 2018 Olympic champion Valeskinha Menezes, who’s playing her farewell season with Curitiba Volei, and Argentinean Olympian Emilce ‘Mimi’ Sosa, who features for Brasilia Volei.

The four other teams set to compete in the Brazilian Superliga are Country Club Valinhos, Esporte Clube Pinheiros, Fluminense and Unilife Maringa. The opening match will reunite Brasilia and Marina on Thursday and the first weekend of competition will feature a meeting between Sesi Bauru and Sesc Flamengo on Friday in its most promising matchup.

Check out the full schedule and results on the official website of the Brazilian Women’s Superliga