Monza

Monza's Van Hecke (7) produced 23 points on Saturday

The opening encounter of the Final Round of the Lega Pallavolo vivo Serie A1 Femminile had everything one would expect of a match at this level – drama, suspense, star performances, big plays and excitement until the last ball touched the floor.

At the end of five hard-fought sets, first-time finalists Vero Volley Monza claimed victory in front of over 5,000 fans at the Palaverde, in Treviso, and upset defending champions Prosecco Doc Imoco Volley Conegliano 3-2 (25-23, 15-25, 19-25, 25-16, 15-13) to start the best-of-five series that will determine the 2021-2022 Italian League champions.

Imoco Volley Conegliano vs. Vero Volley Monza - Match Highlights

The team coached by Marco Gaspari will have an excellent opportunity to increase their lead in the series to 2-0 and move to just one win away from their first national title on Tuesday, when they host the second match of the Final Round at the Monza Arena at 20.30 CET / 18.30 GMT.

Ranked first and third in the Italian League regular season, Conegliano and Monza starred in exciting duels this year with the defending champions winning their encounter in the first leg of the season 3-2 and Monza fighting back to win two matches in a row (including yesterday's result) ahead of Tuesday’s clash.

After starting the third match of the semifinals against Igor Gorgonzola Novara on the bench, Belgian opposite Lise Van Hecke returned to Monza's starting lineup against Conegliano and did so in great fashion, leading the team’s offence with 23 points (22 kills, one block), including the game-winner - she was named the match’s MVP.

“We knew this first match would be tough because they had the entire week to prepare and we didn’t,” said Monza’s middle blocker Anna Danesi - her team only advanced to the Finals on Wednesday. “Our bodies definitely feel the long season, but we kept fighting until the end. Conegliano made a few mistakes that helped us, but we can’t expect that to happen again. We can’t wait to play the second leg in front of our sold-out stadium.”

Another player who was a substitute against Novara, Belarusian outside hitter Hanna Davyskiba also responded well as a starter, producing 15 points (13 kills, two aces), one more than fellow outside hitter and Tokyo Olympics MVP Jordan Larson. The best blocker of the Italian League so far, Monza captain Danesi also had a prolific night with ten points (seven kills, three blocks).

“Our team is humble and mature and I know I can count on all players,” coach Gaspari said. “I didn’t want to risk (outside hitter Alessia) Gennari and (opposite Magdalena) Stysiak after such a long and exhausting series against Novara and Van Hecke and Davyskiba both did really well. We wanted to keep the ball away from (Conegliano’s setter Joanna) Wolosz’s hands, because otherwise we wouldn’t have had a chance. But we haven’t done anything yet and need to have the same attitude until the end of the series.”

Conegliano’s star opposite Paola Egonu led all scorers with 29 points (25 kills, two blocks, two aces), but wasn’t in her best form in the tie-breaker, when she was responsible for three of her team’s five errors.

Besides Egonu, the only Conegliano player to score in double digits was middle blocker Raphaela Folie, who tallied 12 points (11 kills, one block).

“I believe we were a little too anxious in the first set and we made some mistakes,” Conegliano’s libero Monica De Gennaro commented. “We played better in the second and third sets as our passing, blocking and defence all got better. We had a little blackout that cost us the fourth set, and in the tie-breaker we shouldn’t have made the mistakes that brought Monza back into the match. It’s a long series and now we need to win one on the road – it doesn’t matter how we do it, just that we do it. We’ll make sure we understand what we did wrong tonight, but we’ll for sure need to be more aggressive on Tuesday.”

Larson

Larson spikes past Conegliano's block