Anna Danesi’s shot stopped by Imoco’s blockers (source:

Anna Danesi’s shot stopped by Imoco’s blockers

With four legs to go to the end of Italy’s Lega Pallavolo Serie A1 Femminile regular season, two more teams have now secured their spots in the quarterfinal playoffs. Despite losing their matches on Saturday, both Igor Gorgonzola Novara and Reale Mutua Fenera Chieri already have safe places among the top eight in the standings, along with Prosecco Doc Imoco Conegliano, Savino Del Bene Scandicci and Vero Volley Milan.

Six teams are still in the race for the remaining three vacancies. Among them are Cuneo Granda S.Bernardo and Megabox Ondulati Del Savio Vallefoglia, who are now also safe from relegation after the results of the weekend’s six 22nd leg matches.

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In the top match of the weekend, defending champions and table leaders Imoco mastered a 3-1 (22-25, 25-23, 25-19, 25-13) home win over fourth-placed Igor, their 23rd consecutive victory in all competitions, to improve to 60 points and a 21-1 win-loss record. Imoco’s Swedish opposite Isabelle Haak produced the match high of 24 points, while the Most Valuable Player award went to her Italian teammate, middle blocker Federica Squarcini, who hammered an amazing seven aces and three kill blocks within a total tally of 13 points. Igor’s leading point-maker, Turkish opposite Ebrar Karakurt, scored 20 times in the match.

“Our fantastic audience was truly our extra player today!” Squarcini said. “In the second set we recovered, then in the following two sets we picked up our pace, limited our mistakes and showed our game. I'm happy about my serving because I've been making a lot of mistakes lately. It went well and we hope we've saved some for Thursday as another very tough test awaits us in the Champions League. In the meantime, let's enjoy this victory ahead of our trip to Florence on Sunday to defend the first place.”

Olympic champion and Tokyo 2020 MVP Jordan Larson earned the MVP nomination in Vero Volley’s 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-18) away win in Chieri. The American outside hitter spiked at a 61% success rate and aced twice to lead Vero Volley with a total of 13 points towards the victory. Her cross-court teammate Myriam Sylla also finished with 13 points, including an ace and three blocks, while their Reale Mutua Fenera counterpart Francesca Villani delivered the match high of 17 points (61% success in attack, three kill blocks). Third-placed Vero Volley improved to 49 and 16-6, widening the gap to fourth-placed Igor to seven points.

“We played really well at a tough venue,” commented Larson. “We were good at pushing well from the start, both in attack and in serving, bringing home three very important points for the standings and for the morale. In view of the next matches, we must continue to train with determination, as we’ve been doing.”

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Igor Gorgonzola (16-6) and Reale Mutua Fenera (14-8) stand fourth and fifth, respectively, on 42 points each, and thanks to ninth-placed Il Bisonte Florence’s loss at Bartoccini-Fortinfissi Perugia, the teams from Novara and Chieri are now out of reach for anyone below the cut-off line for the playoffs.

Bartoccini-Fortinfissi’s Swedish outside Alexandra Lazic scored a match-high 21 points to spearhead her team to a 3-1 (25-15, 27-25, 17-25, 25-20) win over Il Bisonte and claim the MVP award. Polish opposite Monika Galkowska added another 17 points. In the face-to-face encounter between the Nwakalor sisters, Bartoccini-Fortinfissi’s 20-year-old middle Linda impressed with four kill blocks towards a six-point total, while Il Bisonte’s 23-year-old opposite Sylvia led her squad with 16 points, including three blocks and an ace.

While the team from Florence, on 28 and 9-13, are ninth and still well in the race for the playoffs, the squad from Perugia made an important step towards avoiding relegation. On 16 and 5-17, 12th-placed Bartoccini-Fortinfissi are now five points away from the red zone, after main rival, 13th-placed Wash4Green Pinerolo, lost their game in Cuneo on Sunday by 3-1 (16-25, 25-19, 28-26, 25-22).

“I'm very proud, because we did it as a team,” Lazic said. “I'm happy to have given my contribution to this victory, which is very important for us. Now we have a few points of margin, but the distance is still really small, so we have to keep pushing in the next games too. We have to be brave and go and collect points from all the upcoming matches.”

Eight kill blocks by 23-year-old American middle Anna Stevenson highlighted Cuneo’s home victory over the squad from Pinerolo. The MVP award went to libero Lara Caravello for her excellent performance in defence and reception, while Wash4Green’s 22-year-old Romanian outside Adelina Budai-Ungureanu produced the match high of 20 points. Cuneo climbed to 10th place on 26 and 9-13, just five points below the cut-off for the playoffs, but also an insurmountable 15 points above the relegation line, just below which stand Wash4Green on 11 and 3-19.

Megabox suffered a 3-0 (25-18, 26-24, 25-21) shutout at Trasportipesanti Casalmaggiore to drop to 11th on 25 and 22-9, but now they are also out of reach for Wash4Green while still within reach of the playoff spots. Sixth-placed Trasportipesanti, on 35 and 11-11, are the main candidate to be the next team to secure a spot among the top eight at the end of the season. Then come seventh-placed Volley Bergamo 1991 (34, 11-11) after a 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-20) home victory over bottom-of-the-table CBF Balducci HR Macerata (7, 2-20), for whom just one more loss would be definitively equal to relegation.

The 23rd leg will take place next weekend, March 18 and 19.

Lega Pallavolo Serie A1 Femminile’s 23rd leg schedule:

Mar 18, 18:00 local (17:00 UTC): Megabox Ondulati Del Savio Vallefoglia v Reale Mutua Fenera Chieri

Mar 18, 20:00 local (19:00 UTC): Vero Volley Milan v Cuneo Granda S.Bernardo

Mar 18, 20:30 local (19:30 UTC): Trasportipesanti Casalmaggiore v Il Bisonte Florence

Mar 19, 17:00 local (16:00 UTC): CBF Balducci HR Macerata v e-work Busto Arsizio

Mar 19, 17:00 local (16:00 UTC): Igor Gorgonzola Novara v Bartoccini-Fortinfissi Perugia

Mar 19, 17:00 local (16:00 UTC): Wash4Green Pinerolo v Volley Bergamo 1991

Mar 19, 20:30 local (19:30 UTC): SavinoDelBeneScandiccivProsecco Doc ImocoConegliano