The first two matches in the best-of-five Italian league final produced epic duels between Prosecco Doc Imoco Volley Conegliano and Vero Volley Monza.
Five burning questions ahead of third match of Lega final
What to look out for in Saturday’s key encounter
Published 09:00, 06 May 2022
After two games that were resolved in the fifth set, the league's finalists are now set to return for a crucial third match which will put one of the two clubs just one win away from the Italian title. The match will be played at 20:45 CET / 18:45 GMT on Saturday, at the Palaverde, in Treviso.
There are many variables and factors that impact a series involving teams of this caliber, but considering what happened in the first two encounters, here are five things to look out for in Saturday’s match.
Will homecourt advantage finally be a factor?
Playing at home is usually a good thing in volleyball, which is why teams put a lot of effort into earning the highest possible seeding ahead of the playoffs. During this final series, however, teams have only been able to celebrate victories away from their fans so far, with Monza prevailing in Treviso and Conegliano tying the series on the road.
Conegliano have historically been strong at the Palaverde and will enter the third match full of confidence after leveling the series in a spectacular way. Monza, on the other hand, have managed to come out on top in Treviso not once, but twice in just three months. Will they complete a hat-trick at the Palaverde this season, or will the home team finally send their fans home happy?
Egonu or Larson: who will shine the brightest?
The Italian League Finals feature two of the top volleyball players on the planet right now: Conegliano’s opposite Paola Egonu and Monza’s outside hitter Jordan Larson. The two play key roles for their teams in different ways and have both been in great form in the series so far, but who will shine the brightest when it matters most?
The 23-year-old Egonu has been virtually unstoppable, tallying 29 points in each of the first two matches of the series and her performance played a big role in Conegliano's victory on Tuesday. With the 35-year-old Larson, who joined Monza in March and fit in immediately, the contribution comes more noticeably in the shape of experience, defensive stability and clutch plays.
Who will win the battle in the middle?
Controlling the net can be a key factor in a long and decisive series and Conegliano have dominated so far. With starters Robin de Kruijf and Raphaela Folie in great form, the Panthers have had reliable service from their middles in the series, who combined for 20 points in the first leg and produced five blocks in the second.
Monza have an equally talented middle blocker duo in Anna Danesi and Dana Rettke, but their production hasn’t been on par with Conegliano’s. The best blocker of the league, team captain Danesi has been solid, tallying 16 points across both matches, but Rettke’s seven points were below her usual output. The 23-year-old American also joined Monza during the season, but unlike Larson she came directly from her country’s collegiate system. Rettke could be taking her time to adjust to the most important matches of her career, and Saturday would be a good moment for her to turn that corner.
Which Plummer will show up for Conegliano?
Egonu has shown more than once that she can single-handedly carry any team’s offence for an entire season, but in a competitive and long series like this, she could certainly use some help from her teammates. Outside hitter Kathryn Plummer has shown during the season that support can come from her, but hasn’t always provided in the Final Round.
The 23-year-old, 2.01m-tall American has enormous offensive potential, but struggled in the first leg of the Finals, registering just two points before she was subbed off. She was back to her usual form in the second match, when she was the team’s second-best scorer with 17 points, and if she’s able to replicate that performance on Saturday, Conegliano would be a lot closer to leaving the Palaverde with an advantage.
Will Monza’s depth make a difference?
Monza’s roster depth has been one of the team’s main strengths during the 2021-2022 season, especially after the arrivals of Larson and Rettke. Head coach Marco Gaspari is two deep in basically every position and has used his players well, as was the case with opposite Lise van Hecke and outside hitter Hanna Daviskyba, who until recently used to start on the bench and have been highly productive in the final series so far.
Monza could use any help they can get in the series against a strong team like Conegliano and they have players on their bench who can make a difference. Polish opposite Magdalena Stysiak, who has been surprisingly quiet in the series with just six points scored so far, and outside hitters Alessia Gennari and Katarina Lazovic are some of the candidates who could step up for their team in the most critical moment of the season.