Imoco’s Robin De Kruijf attacks (source:

Imoco’s Robin De Kruijf attacks

As many as three exciting five-setters highlighted the 17th round of Italy’s Lega Pallavolo Serie A1 Femminile regular season over the weekend. In rollercoaster matches, Igor Gorgonzola Novara edged e-work Busto Arsizio at home, while Volley Bergamo 1991 overcame the resistance of their hosts, Cuneo Granda S.Bernardo. In the last match on Sunday evening, reigning world and national champions Prosecco Doc Imoco Conegliano had to battle their way back from two sets down to emerge victorious at Reale Mutua Fenera Chieri.

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Dominating at the net, especially with their blocking efforts, Chieri surprised the current table leaders and recent Coppa Italia winners to take the first two sets of the match, despite some prolific scoring from Imoco’s Swedish opposite Isabelle Haak. With American outside hitter Kelsey Robinson joining the starting line-up from the third set and especially with middle blocker Federica Squarcini stepping up her performance on all accounts, the team from Conegliano mastered a big turnaround to a 3-2 (25-27, 21-25, 25-21, 25-17, 15-9) victory.

Squarcini contributed four aces and five kill blocks and registered a 67% success rate in attack to finish with 17 points. Robinson added another 11, while Haak finished the match with as many as 30 points, including two aces and three blocks to top the scorers’ chart and earn the Most Valuable Player award. Outside Francesca Villani was Chieri’s best scorer on 18 points, followed by Belgian opposite and captain Kaja Grobelna with 17.

Imoco lead the current standings on a 16-1 win-loss record and 46 points, while Chieri are fifth on 12-5 and 36.

“It was a real battle. We knew it wouldn't be easy, because Chieri are a difficult opponent,” Squarcini said after the match. “We didn't start with the right attitude because we weren't aggressive. After two sets we started playing our game. Congratulations to Chieri for putting us in a lot of trouble, but we were good at reacting.”

“I'm happy that tonight our team managed to rise, which was absolutely not easy against Conegliano,” said Chieri’s middle Alessia Mazzaro. “We are sorry for the defeat, but we are very happy with how things went.”

On Saturday, Igor Gorgonzola Novara also had to play catch-up in their home game against e-work Busto Arsizio. Twice in the match, the Butterflies had a one-set advantage, but Novara were finally able to celebrate with a 3-2 (17-25, 26-24, 23-25, 26-24, 15-10) win, with the help of as many as 18 kill blocks. Their American outside McKenzie Adams led the winners with 19 points. Turkish opposite Ebrar Karakurt and outside hitter Caterina Bosetti added 16 and 15 points, respectively. The Italian international was named MVP of the match. Busto Arsizio’s traditional point-maker, Brazilian opposite Rosamaria Montibeller made 22 points, while her Italian teammate on the outside Alice Degradi delivered the match high of 23. The point lost cost Novara one position in the table. They are now down to fourth on 38 points and a 14-3 win-loss record, while Busto Arsizio are eighth on 22 and 7-10.

“It wasn't a good game, but I think the positive thing, in addition to the victory, lies in the fact that the team managed to stay in the game, adapting to the fact that they defended a lot and had greater lucidity and attention in managing the attack,” MVP Bosetti said. “In the most difficult moment we reacted, raising the level in serving and making Busto Arsizio’s life more complicated, consequently starting to win even long rallies and turning the momentum of the match in our favour.”

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In Sunday’s game between Cuneo Granda S.Bernardo and Volley Bergamo 1991, the visitors from Bergamo took the first lead. Cuneo reacted by winning the next two sets, but eventually the tables were turned again as Bergamo celebrated a 3-2 (25-20, 19-25, 16-25, 25-23, 15-10) victory. 22-year-old Croatian middle Bozana Butigan impressed with five kill blocks within a 13-point tally to earn the MVP nomination, while her American teammate Khalia Lanier led Bergamo’s scorers with 18 points. Cuneo’s Russian outside Sofya Kuznetsova produced the match high of 23 points. French opposite Lucille Gicquel added another 22. Bergamo are in seventh place on 25 and 8-9, while Cuneo are 11th on 6-11 and 17.

“I'm very happy. It's always important to bring home points, especially from a difficult court like this,” Butigan said. “It was a tough match. We had many ups and downs, but we were always ready to get back up. We stayed united and in the end we got to victory. Each of us is very important and we have proved it once more.”

Second-placed Savino Del Bene Scandicci claimed an important three-point away win at sixth-placed Trasportipesanti Casalmaggiore, which allowed them to narrow the distance to Imoco down to four points. After mastering a 3-1 (17-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-21) victory, Scandicci improved to 42 and 13-4, while Casalmaggiore have 28 and 9-8. Despite being among the starters in only one of the three sets, Russian teen prodigy Ekaterina Antropova was the top scorer of the match with 21 points, including four aces and three blocks, and was named MVP. American outside Alexandra Frantti was Casalmaggiore’s most prolific player with 20 points.

Vero Volley Milano also secured a four-set victory to overtake Novara in the table. They claimed a 3-1 (24-26, 25-20, 26-24, 25-11) home win over Bartoccini-Fortinfissi Perugia to improve to 39 and 13-4 and rise to third place in the current standings. Meanwhile Perugia are 12th on 9 and 3-14. US middle blocker Dana Rettke produced a fantastic eight kill blocks towards Milano’s win to lead the team’s scorers on 18 points and grab the MVP award.

10th-placed Megabox Ondulati Del Savio Vallefoglia managed a 3-1 (29-27, 15-25, 28-26, 25-16) home victory over 13th-placed Wash4Green Pinerolo with a 17-point match high from Russian outside and captain Tatyana Kosheleva. Ninth-placed Il Bisonte Firenze also added three points to their record with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-23) shutout of bottom-of-the-table CBF Balducci HR Macerata. Firenze’s Belgian outside Britt Herbots was the best scorer of the match with 16 points.

Next weekend’s Lega Pallavolo Serie A1 Femminile schedule:

Feb 11, 20:30 local (19:30 UTC): CBF Balducci HR Macerata v Vero Volley Milano

Feb 12, 17:00 local (16:00 UTC): Volley Bergamo 1991 v Igor Gorgonzola Novara

Feb 12, 17:00 local (16:00 UTC): Prosecco Doc Imoco Conegliano v Cuneo Granda S.Bernardo

Feb 12, 17:00 local (16:00 UTC): e-work Busto Arsizio v Megabox Ondulati Del Savio Vallefoglia

Feb 12, 17:00 local (16:00 UTC): Bartoccini-Fortinfissi Perugia v Trasportipesanti Casalmaggiore

Feb 12, 19:30 local (18:30 UTC): Il Bisonte Firenze v Reale Mutua Fenera Chieri

Feb 13, 18:00 local (17:00 UTC): Savino Del Bene Scandicci v Wash4Green Pinerolo