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The return of Ishikawa strengthened Milano in the last matchday of the regular season

The regular season of the 2022-2023 SuperLega Credem Banca came to an end on Sunday and Allianz Milano and Gioiella Prisma Taranto were the biggest winners on the final matchday of the season.

While the team from Northern Italy claimed the eighth and final spot in the playoffs, Taranto were able to remain in 11th place and avoid relegation, sending Emma Villas Aubay Siena to the country’s second division in 2023-2024 instead.

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The 22nd round of the regular season also determined the four matchups for the quarterfinal round of the playoffs – Sir Safety Susa Perugia (1st) vs. Milano (8th), Itas Trentino (2nd) vs. Vero Volley Monza (7th), Valsa Group Modena (3rd) vs. Gas Sales Bluenergy Piacenza (6th) and Cucine Lube Civitanova (4th) vs. WithU Verona (5th).

The postseason in Italy begins next weekend, with Perugia and Milano clashing on Saturday and the other three duels all taking place on Sunday.

Milano entered the weekend knowing that a victory against the relegation-threatened Taranto on Sunday would be enough to take them to the postseason, but they benefited from Top Volley Cisterna’s 3-1 (25-22, 25-20, 21-25, 25-20) loss to Verona on Saturday and entered the court knowing their spot was already guaranteed.

The team, however, didn’t lose focus and, having six players who missed last weekend’s match against Lube back, were dominant against Taranto, securing a three-set (25-21, 26-24, 25-18) victory.

Milano’s outside hitter duo of Osniel Melgarejo and Yuki Ishikawa led the team’s offence with 16 and 14 points respectively. Olympic medallist Argentinean middle blocker Agustin Loser produced 13 points.

“We got the win against Taranto and I played well, so I’m very happy,” said Ishikawa, who was returning from injury. “We missed several players last week, but the team was back today and we showed we’re in good form. We’re in a good rhythm for the playoffs and although Perugia will be a very difficult opponent, we have a chance to win and will prepare for it.”

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Despite the defeat, Taranto also celebrated on the court after the final point was scored as, thanks to Siena’s straight-set (25-19, 25-22, 25-22) loss to Monza, they earned the right of remaining in the SuperLega in the 2023-2024 season.

“It has been a difficult season in a lot of different ways for us,” team captain and setter Marco Falaschi reacted. “We struggled to have unity during the season, but always gave everything we had. We have a young roster but now these players have the experience of these battles. The real key for us was realizing that the match against Siena a few weeks ago would be pivotal for us and getting ready for a battle.”

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Taranto players celebrate their permanence in the Italian elite

The final round of the regular season also saw league leaders and reigning world champions Perugia write history in the SuperLega. With their three-set (25-16, 25-19, 25-20) triumph against defending champions Lube, they ended their regular season campaign with 22 wins and became the first team in more than 40 years to complete its match schedule without a single loss – the last was RobediKappa Torino, in 1980-1981.

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Cuban opposite Jesus Herrera led the way with 20 points (including six aces) while Pole outside hitter Kamil Semeniuk added another 12.

“We were very solid on both our side out and our defence,” said libero Alessandro Piccinelli. “It was great to play in front out our fans in a packed stadium ahead of the start of the playoffs.”

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Trentino celebrate their second-place finish with their home fans

In a match that could have a major impact on the composition of the quarterfinal duels, Trentino confirmed their ranking as the second-best team of the regular season with a sweep (25-18, 25-20, 25-22) of third-placed Modena in front of their fans. Bulgarian opposite Matey Kaziyski led the team from Trento with 14 points.

“I’m happy with what the team showed in the last few months,” head coach Angelo Lorenzetti reflected. “We were sixth at the end of the first leg of the season and our goal was to move up in the standings. I was a nice rise from sixth to second and the team deserves all the credits.”