Italy_M_02

A couple of weeks after the Italian women’s national team triumphed as continental champions, their male compatriots followed suit and topped the podium at the men’s CEV Volleyball European Championship for the seventh time in history, but first in the last 16 years, to improve their EuroVolley medal count to seven golds, four silvers and three bronzes. On Sunday evening in Katowice, their captain and setter Simone Giannelli led the young Italian squad to a dramatic five-set victory over Slovenia and well deserved the MVP of the tournament award.

For Slovenia, this was the third silver within the last four editions of the continental championship. Hosts Poland finished on a high note, taking the bronze.

In front of the packed stands at the Spodek Arena, Italy came back from a set down twice in the gold medal match to push the game to a tie-breaker, and quickly recovered from an early Slovenian 3-0 lead in the fifth to march on to a 3-2 (22-25, 25-20, 20-25, 25-20, 15-11) victory. While changing opposites during the fourth set, with sub-in Yuri Romano shining both in offence and from the serving line, may have been key to Italy’s turnaround, it was 19-year-old rising star Alessandro Michieletto whose spikes and aces served as the true momentum changer in the tie-breaker. The young outside finished the match with 17 points (including three aces and two blocks), four short of teammate Daniele Lavia’s match high of 21 points (also including three aces and two blocks). Alen Pajenk made 16 points for Slovenia.

“This win was incredible! This group is really great and we showed it on the court. The key to this victory were our hearts. We served well and, in general, we played well. I am just really happy!” said Lavia.

Earlier on Sunday, Poland delighted the home crowd in Katowice with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-22) shutout of outgoing champions Serbia and secured their spot among the medallists. It was their fourth bronze and overall 10th medal in the history of the European Championships, but the first ever continental podium achieved on home ground. Wilfredo Leon was the best scorer of the bronze medal game with 14 points, followed by Polish teammate Bartosz Kurek with 11 and Serbia’s Marko Ivovic with 10.

Italy’s Michieletto tallied 133 points across the nine matches played at EuroVolley to stand second in the overall scorers chart, 40 short of Dutchman Nimir Abdel-Aziz, who piled up 173 points in seven games. Michieletto’s 21-ace count was second only to the 23 aces delivered by Croatia’s Leo Andric in six matches. Poland’s Piotr Nowakowski was the best blocker of the tournament on 32 stuffs, 10 clear of the next best, Italy’s Simone Anzani.