By Tomasso

SUMMARY

Everyone was waiting for the big match between Perugia and Trento, the first 2 teams in the standings fighting for supremacy. Rosters were complete, with Perugia’s Fabio Ricci returning from injury but opting for keeping Galassi as the starting MB. Galassi was also one of the 7 players who played on both teams (the other ones being Colaci, Lanza, Della Lunga, Hoag, Russell and Daldello). 2 consecutive aces by Lisinac gave Trento the first important lead (12-8), then Leòn answered with 2 of his own and Perugia was close again (13-12). After a series of blocks, the game was tied 20-20. A block by Lisinac gave Trento the first set ball (24-22) immediately cancelled by Podrascanin, but a serve error by Lanza ended the set (25-23).

In the 2nd, Atanasjevic was determined to redeem himself from an awful 1st set and brought Perugia an 8-3 lead. Then, magically, the 8-3 curse fell on Perugia again (a couple years ago, they lost a Scudetto and a Supercup, both against Modena, both while leading 8-3 in the tie break). Trento tied the game immediately (9-9), then went up 16-13. Bernardi took a yellow card after a controversial video check, then subbed in Hoogendoorn for Atanasjevic. The Dutch OPP did good, but it wasn’t enough. Giannelli’s ace took Trento up 21-16 then Russell buried the first set ball to win it (25-19).

Perugia started strong again in the 3rd, gaining a 7-4 lead, but once again Trento came back immediately and an ace by Kovacevic tied the set 8-8. Another ace, this time by Candellaro, gave Trento the lead (14-13) and Bernardi tried to change things subbing in Della Lunga for a heavily booed Lanza. Leòn’s turn from the line tied the set again (20-20), then, despite a silly error from Atanasjevic (22-20), a block by Podrascanin gave Perugia their first set ball of the game. Trento cancelled that and the following 3, then Russell earned the first match ball of the game (28-27). Perugia cancelled as much as 6 of them, but, on the 7th, Vettori sealed the deal (35-33) and Trento took both the W and the top spot in the standings.

Perugia stepped down after 375 days leading the Superleague. I honestly expected a win for Trento, but I surely didn’t expect a 3-0 win. Also, I didn’t expect both team finishing well over 60% positive receptions. Another thing I didn’t expect is that I would have written the following statement. Lisinac (11 points, 83% kills, 2 aces, 4 blocks) was named MVP and probably deserved it, but I would have voted for Vettori (13 points, 68% kills). Yes, you would expect something more from a starting OPP in terms of serving and blocking, but his game was really solid despite everyone waiting for him to fail once again in a big match, also scoring the game-winning kill. The usual solid performance by Kovacevic (17 points, 56% kills, 1 ace, 2 blocks) countered a sloppy offensive game by Russell (11 points, 38% kills, 60% positive reception but 5% efficiency, 5 blocked spikes, 1 block).

Perugia once again failed to deliver when the service got sloppy (3 aces, 21 errors). Terrible game by Atanasjevic (11 points, 31% kills, 1 ace, 2 blocks) and a subpar one by Leòn as well (15 points, 46% kills, 64% positive reception but 8% efficiency, 2 aces). Lanza got emotional in his first game in Trento as an opponent (6 points, 42% kills, 75% positive reception, 1 block), so De Cecco tried to play more with the middles with mixed results (12 points, 54% kills, 5 blocks combined). Also, let me say that Bernardi’s time outs looked once again useless. A lot of motivational speaking, a lot of swears (“I don’t f*cking care, I want you to fight on every f*cking ball”), but no technical or tactical directions for his team. Trento looks unstoppable right now and, with Perugia facing Lube next week, they will surely try to extend their lead.

So, did Lube and Modena took advantage of Perugia’s fall? Lube, surely, had the hardest task, hosting Verona in Civitanova Marche. The home team seemed on their way to win the 1st (22-19), then a 6-1 break from Verona turned the set around and a double hit by Leal sealed it.

Lube tried to throw it away in the 2nd, too, gaining a 17-10 lead then falling asleep and waking up only on 18-17, when Kovar’s comeback on the field took the home team back up (21-18). Verona immediately tied the set (21-21) but once again Kovar stepped up blocking Boyer and tying the game (26-24, 1-1).

The Italian/Czech OH was promoted starter by De Giorgi in the 3rd, who also subbed in Simon for Cester. The Italian MB got back on the field subbing Stankovic after a sloppy mistake (12-11 Verona). A very tight set saw Lube catching Verona on 20-20, then an ace by Boyer gave Verona a one-break lead that remained intact until the end (25-23). Lube looked in big trouble in the 4th, going down 8-5, then a furious comeback led by Leal (who went back in the starting lineup) tied the game (25-19, 2-2). Lube started strong in the tie break (4-1), then Verona came back but Boyer spiked out the potential 10-10 ball. A capital mistake by the French OPP, because Lube finally got solid and won it 15-12. The kitchen guys gained 2 points and protect their 3rd place, but things could have gone South yesterday. De Giorgi used 3 different starting lineups in 5 sets because he wasn’t able to find solid answers from anyone except Sokolov (24 points, 53% kills, 1 ace, 5 blocks) and Juantorena (19 points, 52% kills, 72% positive reception, 2 aces, 2 blocks), then Leal redeemed himself and played a spectacular 2nd half (22 points, 61% kills). I’m still puzzled by Simon (2 points, 29% kills), wasn’t he supposed to be a top-3 MB? Verona tried to place a big upset, led by the usual Kaziyski (22 points, 47% kills, 2 aces) and a finally consistent Boyer (25 points, 48% kills, 2 aces, 3 blocks). The 2 of them took 68% of Spirito’s sets, but Manavi (9 points, 64% kills, 2 blocks) probably deserved some more. 11 points with 6 blocks from Solé but a mere 38% kills.

Modena, in theory, had an easier job, playing against Ravenna without Rychlicki (in Luxemburg with the National team). The home team had to deal with Holt’s last minute absence (twisted ankle in morning training) but recovered both Zaytsev and Mazzone. The 1st set looked like a rubber band, with Modena gaining an important lead then Ravenna catching up but never enough to tie the game. That is, until Modena went up 24-22 and wasted 2 set balls (24-24), but Urnaut and a sloppy mistake by Raffaelli closed it (26-24).

In the 2nd, Modena went from 2-2 to 5-2 with 3 beautiful points, but once again Ravenna came back and tied the game (9-9). Christenson started playing more bics and Zaytsev compensated his poor offensive performance with some great blocks, giving Modena a 21-18 lead that remained untouched until the end of the set (25-21). Ravenna tried to push hard in the 3rd, going up 8-5, then Bednorz stole the show and almost single-handedly carried Modena from down 10-8 to up 14-11. 2 consecutive blocks from Zaytsev, 2 consecutive aces from Bednorz and it was game, set and match (25-17).

Modena was a diesel, starting slow but gaining speed over time, and compensating a subpar game from the service line (4 aces) with great blocking (13, 7 in the 1st set alone). Another huge game and another MVP for Bednorz (18 points, 64% kills, 64% positive reception, 50% perfect reception, 2 aces, 2 blocks), who is also starting to connect with Micah from the back row. Zaytsev had a terrible first set (2 points, 22% kills, 0% efficiency) but redeemed himself later in the game (12 points, 58% kills, 5 blocks in the following 2). Sloppy performance by the middles (9 points, 43% kills, 1 block combined), but another solid game by Urnaut (13 points, 69% kills, 63% positive reception, 2 blocks). A nice effort by Ravenna and a good game by Argenta (15 points, 58% kills, 1 block), in his first game as starting OPP, but he was the only one along with Russo (8 points, 63% kills, 2 aces, 1 block) to have more than 40% kills.

Milano went to Latina determined not to lose points to Modena before next week’s matchup (in a sold-out Assago Forum, more than 12,000 seats). A very tight 1st set in which Milano took a 16-13 lead but Latina came back, tied the game (17-17) and, despite 2 consecutive time-outs by Giani, took the lead (22-19) and kept it until the end (25-22).

Another tight set saw Milano and Latina continuously overtaking each other until an error by Stern gave the guests a 23-21 lead and, after wasting 2 set points, they closed it 27-25.

Milano closed the door in the 3rd (8 blocks) but, once again, risked a lot, going up 24-20, wasting 3 set balls and closing it just in time (25-23). Yet another hard fight in the 4th, with Milano wasting yet another +3 lead (from 22-19 to 23-23). Latina had the chance to go to the tie break (25-24) but Maar stepped up and Milano won it 30-28. Milano looked a bit like the early Trento, with a sloppy OPP (13 points, 45% kills for Abdel-Aziz) but 2 consistent wings (21 points, 55% kills, 1 ace, 3 blocks for Maar; 24 points, 51% kills, 63% positive reception, 2 aces, 4 blocks for Clevenot) and a solid MB (13 points, 63% kills, 3 blocks for Piano). Lots of regrets for Latina, which was so close to gain points but, in the end, didn’t move the chain on the standings. Good performance from Swan Ngapeth (24 points, 48% kills, 1 ace, 1 block) but it wasn’t enough and Stern (15 points, 36% kills, 1 ace, 1 block) kept struggling.

Padova took advantage of Ravenna’s loss by adding yet another loss (3-0) to Castellana’s record. Monza, Vibo, Sora and Siena will play on February 6th and 8th.

RESULTS AND SCORESHEETS

Modena Volley 3-0 Porto Robur Costa Ravenna (26-24, 25-21, 25-17)

Modena: Christenson 3, Urnaut 13, Anzani 5, Zaytsev 14, Bednorz 18, Mazzone 4, Benvenuti (L), Rossini (L), Pinali 0, Keemink 0. Ravenna: Saitta 1, Poglajen 8, Verhees 6, Argenta 15, Raffaelli 5, Russo 8, Marchini (L), Lavia 1, Smidl 0, Di Tommaso 0, Goi (L).

MVP: Bartosz Bednorz (Modena)

New Mater Castellana Grotte 0-3 Pallavolo Padova (20-25, 30-32, 18-25)

Castellana: Falaschi 3, Wlodarczyk 10, De Togni 4, Zanatta Buiatti 7, Mirzajanpourmouziraji 11, Zingel 3, Cavaccini (L), Studzinski 0, Scopelliti 0, Pace (L), Kovac 1, Quartarone 0, Kruzhkov 5. Padova: Travica 3, Louati 8, Polo 9, Torres 16, Barnes 12, Volpato 9, Bassanello (L), Danani La Fuente (L), Cottarelli 0.

MVP: Oscar Torres (Padova)

Lube Civitanova 3-2 Blu Volley Verona (23-25, 26-24, 23-25, 25-19, 15-12)

Civitanova: Bruno 3, Juantorena 19, Cester 6, Sokolov 24, Leal 22, Stankovic 3, Marchisio (L), Cantagalli 0, Balaso (L), Simon 2, Kovar 3, Diamantini 0, D’Hulst 0. Verona: Spirito 3, Manavinezhad 9, Solé 11, Boyer 25, Kaziyski 22, Birarelli 9, Giuliani (L), De Pandis (L), Pinelli 1, Sharifi 2, Marretta 0, Alletti 0.

MVP: Tsvetan Sokolov (Civitanova)

Top Volley Latina 1-3 Power Volley Milano (25-22, 25-27, 23-25, 28-30)

Latina: Sottile 1, Palacios 9, Rossi 6, Stern T. 15, Ngapeth 24, Gitto 10, Parodi (L), Caccioppola (L), Barone 2, Stern Z. 3, Huang 0, Gavenda 1. Milano: Sbertoli 0, Clevenot 24, Kozamernik 6, Abdel-Aziz 13, Maar 21, Piano 13, Hoffer (L), Pesaresi (L), Hirsch 1, Bossi 0.

MVP: Trevor Clevenot (Milano)

Trentino Volley 3-0 Sir Volley Perugia (25-23, 25-19, 35-33)

Trento: Giannelli 2, Kovacevic 17, Lisinac 11, Vettori 13, Russell 11, Candellaro 6, De Angelis (L), Van Garderen 0, Grebennikov (L), Nelli 0, Daldello 0. Perugia: De Cecco 1, Lanza 6, Podrascanin 7, Atanasijevic 11, Leon 15, Galassi 5, Piccinelli (L), Della Lunga 4, Colaci (L), Seif 0, Hoogendoorn 4, Ricci 1, Hoag 0.

MVP: Srecko Lisinac (Trento)

NEXT ROUND (January 13th, 6 pm Italian, noon ET):

Perugia – Civitanova (January 12th, RaiSport)

Milano – Modena (RaiSport)

Vibo – Trento

Ravenna – Monza (January 12th, 8.30 pm Italian, 2.30 pm ET)

Siena – Latina

Padova – Sora

Verona – Castellana

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