Verona 1903

Verona players celebrate their positive start in the SuperLega playoffs

With two tie-breakers and one upset, the SuperLega Credem Banca playoffs began this weekend and Sir Safety Susa Perugia, Itas Trentino, Valsa Group Modena and WithU Verona started their best-of-five quarterfinal series in advantage.

After victories over Allianz Milano, Vero Volley Monza, Gas Sales Bluenergy Piacenza and Cucine Lube Civitanova this weekend, the teams will try to defend their leads on Wednesday, when the second-leg matches of the series will be played.

· Watch all SuperLega Credem Banca matches live or on demand on VBTV.

Verona had undoubtedly the most surprising win in the first round of the playoffs in Italy as the fifth-best team of the regular season went on the road against defending champions Lube and claimed a tight three-set (26-24, 31-29, 26-24) victory on Sunday to start the series in the best possible way.

Outside hitter Noumory Keita was the match’s Most Valuable Player and led all scorers with 16 points (14 kills, one block, one ace), two more than Russian opposite Maksim Sapozhkov, who had 13 kills and one block. Opposite Ivan Zaytsev and outside hitter Mattia Bottolo scored 13 points each for Lube.

“We got everything we wanted from this match,” said Verona’s assistant coach Dario Simoni. “We came here to play and demonstrate our individual and collective skills and our teamwork really stood out today. We need to keep working as we’ve been doing.”

Keita 1903

Keita had a big performance against Lube on the road

The highly-anticipated series between Modena and Coppa Italia winners Piacenza started in an exciting way, with the hosts working hard to produce a five-set (25-19, 23-25, 25-19, 20-25, 15-11) victory in front of their home fans on Sunday.

Earvin Ngapeth and Adis Lagumdzija carried Modena’s offense in the match, with each of them tallying 20 points – the French star outside hitter had 19 kills and one ace, while the Turkish opposite got his production with 16 kills, three aces and one block.

“We know this is going to be a very long and difficult series and that each match will have its own history,” said setter Bruno Rezende, who was awarded as the match’s Most Valuable Player. “We could have won the first two sets today, but we know it wouldn’t mean much because they have the strength to come back. Losing that second set was difficult, but we knew how to reset and keep focusing only on the next play. In the playoffs, the details make a big difference.”

The Brazilian outside hitter duo of Yoandy Leal and Ricardo Lucarelli played a big role in Piacenza’s offense, with Leal delivering 17 points (15 kills, two blocks) and Lucarelli adding 16 of his own, with 13 kills, two aces and one block.

Second-placed Trentino were also pushed to their limits, but made great use of their homecourt advantage to stop Monza’s comeback and prevail after five sets (25-16, 25-21, 13-25, 18-25, 15-13) on Sunday. The match was a physical test for the team, which played a five-set match and a golden set on Thursday in the CEV Champions League.

Trentino’s star outside hitter Alessandro Michieletto was his team’s main scorer, with 19 points (18 kills, one block). Fellow 2022 world champion outside hitter Daniele Lavia contributed with 12 points (nine kills, three blocks).

“We did a very good job of winning the first match of the series in a difficult situation, especially after we started feeling tired,” setter Riccardo Sbertoli, the match's MVP, analysed. “It will be very important to go to Monza on Wednesday with an advantage. We expect match two to be as tough as today’s and we’ll need to have our minds clear to make good decisions.”

Sbertoli 1903

Sbertoli led Trentino in their five-set win over Monza

The match’s top scorer was Monza’s German opposite György Grozer, who left the court with impressive 29 points (25 kills, three aces, two blocks).

Regular season leaders Perugia secured their 23rd-straight victory in the Italian League this season and started their playoff campaign on the right foot, downing Milano in three sets (25-22, 25-15, 25-18) at home on Saturday.

Cuban opposite Jesus Herrera led all scorers with 17 points (15 kills, one ace, one block). Ukrainian outside hitter Oleh Plotnytskyi added another 14 (ten kills, three aces, one block) and match’s MVP Flavio Gualberto tallied ten.

“We were very focused at the start of the match and were able to maintain that same mindset until the end,” Plotnytskyi reflected. “We obviously made some mistakes and I hope we can clean them up in the next matches, but it was a solid performance.”

Japanese outside hitter Yuki Ishikawa was the only Milano player to score in double digits, reaching 12 points, all of which generated in kills.