Wilfredo Leon, Earvin Ngapeth, Robertlandy Simon and Matey Kaziyski are just a few of the highest-calibre international stars set to play in the fifth-match deciders of Italy’s SuperLega Credem Banca semifinal playoffs on Wednesday. While half of these players will advance to the championship showdown and continue the volleyball spectacle, the next chance to see some of the players who are knocked out will be with their national teams at the Volleyball Nations League, starting at the end of May.
Leon, Ngapeth, Simon, Kaziyski… who will miss out on the SuperLega final?
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Published 12:00, 26 Apr 2022
The four participating clubs – Sir Safety Conad Perugia, Leo Shoes PerkinElmer Modena, Cucine Lube Civitanova and Itas Trentino – have so far given their best to deliver a thrilling semifinal saga. And now they prepare to entertain volleyball fans around the world one last time as the two unpredictable series culminate and the finalists emerge.
With both playoffs tied at two wins each, the Perugia vs. Modena and Lube vs. Trentino games will provide all the answers, starting at 20:30 local time on Wednesday.
Cuban titan Robertlandy Simon and his Lube teammates, including Argentinean setter Luciano De Cecco, Brazilian outside Ricardo Lucarelli and Italian opposite Ivan Zaytsev, will make a final push to complete a heroic turnaround in their series. As Trentino shut them out in the first two matches, Lube seemed doomed to bid farewell to their last chance of earning a trophy this season. They came back to win the next two games (3-0 and 3-1), however, and have revived their hopes of defending the national title.
Trentino, on the other hand, have already played in two finals this season, winning the Supercoppa and losing the Coppa Italia. They have also booked their spot in next month’s CEV Champions League final. Their inspiration led them on to the somewhat surprising upsets of the reigning champs in the first two semifinal games, earning them three shots at closing the series and progressing to their fourth final of the season. They failed at the first two attempts, but the last one remains. Experienced Bulgarian captain Matey Kaziyski and Trentino’s pair of acclaimed Serbian middle blockers Marko Podrascanin and Srecko Lisinac are the players expected to lead by example, while rising Italian stars like Alessandro Michieletto and Daniele Lavia should provide the extra energy needed to overcome the current obstacle.
“We have another opportunity and we still believe...” Riccardo Sbertoli, setter of Itas Trentino
When you have recently won both the national cup and the league’s regular season, and especially when you can rely on athletes like Cuban-born Polish standout Wilfredo Leon, Argentinean middle blocker Sebastian Sole, American outside Matthew Anderson and Italian playmaker Simone Giannelli, you are bound to be considered the favourites. But that’s a tricky role to be in as Perugia proved in their semifinal series against Modena. In games one and three, when they also had the home-court advantage on their side, they could not cope with the pressure and lost (3-1 and 3-2). But in games two and four, when they were playing away at Modena and had their backs against the wall, they showed their real worth and won (3-1 and 3-2) to push the playoff to a game five showdown at home.
With France’s Tokyo 2020 MVP Earvin Ngapeth, Brazilian setter Bruno Rezende, compatriot Yoandy Leal and Dutch point-making machine Nimir Abdel-Aziz in their team, however, Modena have absolutely no reason to accept the underdog role in this clash, despite finishing the regular season in fourth place. They have already beaten their powerful opponents twice in Perugia and will not shy away from doing so again on Wednesday.
“All cards on the table to take home the series!” Daniele Mazzone, middle blocker of Leo Shoes PerkinElmer Modena
All four of these star-studded teams deserve to be in the final, but fate will mercilessly end the 2021-2022 SuperLega season for two of them prematurely on Wednesday. One thing is for sure – they will not back off without a battle.