Most would have dismissed Italy, competing at the 2021 FIVB Men's Volleyball Nations League without their top stars, but after Week 2 of the competition they're already with two wins under their belt - both in five sets, over Bulgaria and Canada. And looking forward to more.
Francesco Recine carries weight of huge family tradition
Young Italy star already shines at VNL
Published 01:35, 09 Jun 2021
"Winning two tie-breaks is good for our character and mentality," says Francesco Recine, the 22-year-old opposite who was Italy's top scorer in the dramatic win over Canada.
"We have to continue to grow, because we can do it," he adds. "We are happy, we play the sport which we love so we keep smiling on the court and showing our best."
Italy's budding star picked up volleyball inspired by his volleyball family, growing up with both parents playing the game.
His father Stefano was a volleyball star himself in the 1980s and the family trophy cabinet includes, amogst others, a European Champions Cup gold (with Parma) and an FIVB Volleyball Club World Champioship title (with Gonzaga Milan).
His mother, Betty Bigiarini, was a setter with the legendary 1980s side of Teodora Ravenna and a member of Italy's Junior National Team at the time.
"I saw them playing when I was young and I fell in love with this sport," he says - though his origins were initially in football, before switching to volleyball at the age of 10.
Recine is especially happy with his own personal performance so far in the VNL.
"I'm the shortest guy on the team, but I have a character and I showed it on the court. I'm never afraid. I know where I started, I know I always have to push every time, every ball and to kill the difficult balls is the best moment for me."