It is about to get hotter in Italy. Yes, the spring season is now in full swing, but what really gets the mercury rising are the upcoming semifinal playoffs in Italy’s SuperLega Credem Banca.
Race for SuperLega final set to turn up the heat!
Watch the semis LIVE on Volleyball TV!
Published 06:00, 13 Apr 2022
The race for the spots in the national championship final starts on Wednesday, at 20:30 local time, in Perugia, where Coppa Italia winners Sir Safety Conad Perugia welcome Leo Shoes PerkinElmer Modena for the first match of their best-of-five series. The other semifinal, between defending champions Cucine Lube Civitanova and Supercoppa holders Itas Trentino, will get underway at the same time on Thursday in Civitanova Marche.
Perugia reached this stage of the SuperLega playoffs by winning the regular season on a record of 67 points and 22 victories in 24 matches and then claiming two wins, 3-1 at home and 3-0 away, over Top Volley Cisterna in the quarterfinals. Modena finished the regular season in fourth place on 51 points and 18 wins and went on to knock out Allianz Milano in the quarterfinals after a clean slate at home and a five-set away battle.
In the regular season head-to-heads, the two teams resolved both their matches in tie-breakers, with Modena winning at Perugia in November and Perugia winning at Modena in February. Historically, the series between the two clubs is tied at 18 wins each.
Both squads feature some of the world’s best players. Perugia’s roster includes athletes like Simone Gianelli. Sebastian Sole and Matthew Anderson, while Modena can rely on the services of Bruno Rezende, Earvin Ngapeth and Yoandy Leal, among others. What will be most interesting, however, is to see their most prolific players, Wilfredo Leon and Nimir Abdel-Aziz engage in a scoring race as they face each other across the net. Both players are among the season’s best point-makers so far. Perugia’s Cuban-born Polish international has the highest average of 5.19 points scored per set, ranking third in the overall chart on 420 points, while the Dutch opposite, who is recovering well from a recent injury, comes second on a total of 431 points.
“I expect a long and difficult series. We face an opponent of the highest level. There will be moments in which we will do better, and others in which they will be the ones to come out on top. So we will have to be patient, stick to our game and try to limit their strongest players. The serving can be a deciding factor in the series.” Massimo Colaci, libero of Sir Safety Conad Perugia
“It's a semifinal playoff and it will be a great series because we're playing against Perugia. In the playoffs each game has its own story and in the series you have to know how to grow and adapt to the opponent. For us, these are all finals. We have to think about one game at a time. We come from ten days without competitive games, but I am convinced that we will enter the court with the right pace.” Andrea Giani, head coach of Leo Shoes PerkinElmer Modena
The other semifinal match-up will be just as exciting. Wednesday’s hosts Lube will rely on the phenomenal skills of players like Luciano De Cecco, Ivan Zaytsev, Osmany Juantorena, Ricardo Lucarelli, Robertlandy Simon, etc., while their visitors from Trento can count on a wonderful alloy of experienced athletes like Matey Kaziyski, Marko Podrascanin, Srecko Lisinac and booming young talents like Alessandro Michieletto and Daniele Lavia.
Trentino beat Lube in four sets at home in October, when they first met during the regular season. Lube got back at them with a 3-2 victory in February in Civitanova and another five-set win in December’s FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship semifinal in Brazil. It will be the third time in a row that Lube and Trentino meet in the SuperLega semifinals. On each of the two previous occasions, the club from Civitanova emerged as the finalists. Lube also lead 48-36 in the overall head-to-head against Trentino.
Lube and Trentino finished the regular season as first and second runners-up, respectively. The team from Civitanova tallied 57 points and 19 wins, while their rivals from Trento claimed 53 points and 17 victories. After eliminating Vero Volley Monza in two quarterfinal games, 3-0 at home and 3-1 away, Lube are taking advantage of a rare 11-day period without any matches, to prepare for their upcoming semifinal clash. Trentino, on the other hand, played a three-match quarterfinal playoff against Gas Sales Bluenergy Piacenza (two shutouts at home and a tie-breaker loss away), in addition to two amazing hard-fought five-setters and a golden set to overcome Perugia in the CEV Champions League semifinals. It remains to be seen if that will energize them ahead of their encounter with Lube.
“A difficult, uncertain and exciting series against top-level opponents awaits us. Beyond the qualities of an already very strong team, Trento are going through a magical moment. We expect a well-structured team that has grown a lot over the course of the season. For us, it has been a long awaited moment since our team was selected and the work was planned. What matters is always arriving prepared for the crucial challenges. We are where we wanted to be and ready to play the highlight of the season.” Gianlorenzo Blengini, head coach of Cucine Lube Civitanova
“The adrenaline of qualifying for the Champions League final is stronger than any kind of fatigue. Reaching this semifinal was one of the goals we set ourselves at the beginning of the season. We hit it and we are all particularly happy. I see the team charged up and fortunately it seems to me that they do not suffer too much from the pressure of the big events, which is why I am very confident for the semifinal series.” Bruno Da Re, president of Itas Trentino Trento