Did you miss big matches in the Superleague? Well, now that Milano is officially among the top-4, you can say that their match against Trento falls under that category. Milano wanted to keep a clean sheet in the 2nd half of the regular season, while Trento wanted to keep Lube at a distance and try to catch Perugia. Milano played with Izzo and Bossi in place of injured Sbertoli and Piano, while Trento decided to sit out Lisinac (for Codarin) and to keep faith in Vettori.

The 1st set was pretty balanced until 17-17, then Milano started blocking hard and scored an 8-2 break that gave them the lead (25-19, 1-0). Strong start for Trento in the 2nd (5-8), then another break for Milano and the tables were turned (9-8). Vettori made a great serving turn (12-15) before being blocked by his former teammate Bossi (13-16). Despite this, Trento kept Milano at a distance and a spike out by Abdel-Aziz evened the game (19-25, 1-1).

In the 3rd, it was Milano’s turn to start strong (3-0), but Trento caught up (7-7), overtook and sailed away (15-20), becoming unreachable for the home team (17-25) and taking the lead (1-2). Another 3-0 break from Milano opened the 4th, immediately followed by a 4-0 break from Trento. The set was pretty even, with both teams overtaking each other until a spike out by Maar gave Trento a 2-points lead (19-21) that would remain untouched until the end (23-25, 1-3).

The first defeat in this half of the season for Milano, which found their ace machine jammed by Grebennikov (63% positive reception, 41% perfect, no errors) and which couldn’t handle the fierce determination of the usual Kovacevic (15 points, 40% kills, 4 aces, 3 blocks) and the not-so-usual Vettori (15 points, 56% kills). Trento won 3 golden points in a match day where they had undoubtedly the trickiest match among the top-3 teams.

In fact, both Perugia and Lube had easy road games against Ravenna and Latina respectively, two teams that had nothing left to ask to this regular season, being out of both playoff contention and the fight to avoid relegation. As expected, both guests recorded 3-0 victories, but the Ravenna match was not a walk in the park for Perugia. The team from Dante’s resting place put up quite a fight, defending hard and scoring 9 blocks against Perugia’s 2, but when both Leòn (20 points, 75% kills, 2 aces) and Atanasjevic (13 points, 50% kills, 2 aces) are firing up there’s not much you can do. The Latina match was much less entertaining, with Lube crushing the home team (47-75) in an almost embarrassing show of power (37% kills for Latina, 64% for Lube). De Giorgi spared Simon for the Moscow match and played with Stankovic (7 points, 71% kills, 2 blocks), while Leal (15 points, 77% kills, 4 aces, 1 block) buoyed the team. The first game of the season for Louis Caccioppola (21 years old backup libero coming from Latina’s youth team) and Brenden Lee Sander, Taylor’s younger brother.

Another interesting match was on schedule in Modena, where the home team wanted to defend their 4th place and give the fans some reasons to be happy after a very troubled season, while Monza wanted to bank their playoff spot and try to catch Padova. Christenson was still in the stands but, this time, he was joined by Kévin Tillie, who is supposed to start training today and, possibly, make is debut against Siena on Sunday. Monza played with Botto in place of the injured Plotnytskyi and, for the 1st time this season, with Buchegger as a starter. Lots of former Modena players in Monza (Orduna, Yosifov, Beretta), not to mention coach Soli, who was born and raised just outside Modena and who’s been a 2nd-string setter for Modena many times in his playing career. A good start for Modena in the 1st, going up 11-7, before Beretta started scoring in every possible way, among which a block on Bednorz (14-16) and an almost perfect sheet on offense (21-24). A spike out by Bednorz closed the set (22-25, 0-1).

The Polish OH stayed on the bench in the 2nd set, replaced by Kaliberda. The set was pretty even, with no team able to gain more than a 2-points lead. An ace by Kaliberda gave Modena 2 match balls, both canceled by Monza (24-24). On Modena’s 3rd match ball (25-24) a very controversial episode. Buchegger attacked out, Monza called a video check for block touch, the replay showed no touch but nevertheless, the ref decided to overturn his decision (25-25). Monza went on to win the set (26-28, 0-2) after a net fault by Modena. The home team had a fierce reaction in the 3rd, finally led by Zaytsev, and won the set after being up all the time (25-20, 1-2).

In the 4th, after an initial 5-2 lead by Modena, Monza placed a 13-23 break and it was game, set (18-25) and match (1-3). We could talk about Buchegger’s great comeback game (20 points, 47% kills, 2 aces, 2 blocks), about Yosifov’s 7 blocks or Beretta’s 78% kills, but, sadly, we have to talk, once again, about how sh*tty Modena’s game was. Keemink was terrible in every aspect of the game (except his early serving with 2 aces). His sets were off all the time and he could read Monza’s blocking like I can read Mongolian (spoiler alert: I have absolutely no idea how to do it). He played so bad that at some point during the 4th, Velasco took him off and gave the team’s keys to 16-years old debuting Matteo Lusetti, who plays in Modena’s junior varsity team.

Once again, the Argentinian coach made some bad mistakes and even got in a beef with Keemink. Once again, Anzani (6 points, 44% kills, 2 blocks) looked like a distant relative of the guy who won the Best MB award last year. Once again, Urnaut (19 points, 61% kills) was the only one who kept fighting until the end, got angry at mistakes and, for the record, the only Modena player with >50% kills. Once again, there were more than 4,700 people at PalaPanini, more than any match played in Perugia, Trento or Civitanova Marche this year and, once again, those people went home renovating their swearing dictionary (except Monza fans, of course). I’m 33 and I’ve been going to PalaPanini since I was 8. I saw every possible Modena team, from those that won everything in both Italy and Europe to those that fought to avoid relegation. At least, the latter were made with very little money and the players compensated their lack of talent with pride and fighting spirit. Never have I ever saw a team so yielding and clueless representing my hometown, and that’s pretty sad.

Back to match day, Padova fought off Monza’s attack on 7th place by crushing Verona (3-0, 75-52) in the Veneto derby and clinching the playoff berth. The home team was superior in every way and found solid answers in Torres (17 points, 58% kills, 1 ace, 1 block) and the middles (19 points, 54% kills, 1 ace, 4 blocks combined). They also made some spectacular plays, like the one in the 1st set, where Travica correctly guessed a free ball and, on first touch, set for a quick by Volpato. 2nd consecutive 3-0 loss for Verona, where even Kaziyski (11 points, 48% kills) ended with negative plus/minus (-2, 9 errors).

In the bottom part of the standings, Sora clinched the safe-from-relegation berth by winning a hard-fought match in Vibo Valentia (1-3). The home team had a good start, winning the 1st (27-25) after cancelling 5 set balls. Great reaction by Sora in the 2nd (16-25, 1-1). Vibo looked like they could win the 3rd (20-16), but a great comeback by the guests turned the game around (23-25, 1-2). Bagnoli tried to shake things up in the 4th by using Domagala, Marsili and Lopez, but Sora was simply more determined (20-25, 1-3). As always, when Sora wins, the usual suspects are Petkovic (25 points, 44% kills, 2 aces, 1 block) and Joao Rafael (19 points, 47% kills, 1 ace, 1 block), while Vibo scored points with as much as 10 players, led by Al Hachdadi (19 points, 1 ace but 28% efficiency). The Calabria guys can still smile, though, because it really seems that Siena doesn’t want to stay in Superleague. They managed to lose even in Bari against Castellana (3-2), despite the home team’s captain (De Togni) leaving the match in the 2nd set for a dislocated shoulder. They’re the worst team in this half of the season (4 points in 10 games, 2 less than Castellana, without a single win) and, most of all, 5 points shy of Vibo with just 3 games left. Since, in case of a tie, the first tie breaker is the number of victories, Siena (2 wins) will be outmatched by Vibo (6 wins) no matter what, so, in order to avoid relegation, Siena (upcoming schedule: Modena, MONZA, Ravenna, away games in capital letters) must finish the regular season with more points than Vibo (VERONA, Milano, LUBE). They have an easier schedule, but they’ll have to score at least 6 points more than Vibo. The chairman is, of course, furious. He made the team stay in Bari on a retreat and imposed a media blackout (is this the correct term?) to players and staff. Sweet and sour victory for Castellana, 2nd straight after 21 consecutive losses, but the mathematical certainty of relegation.

RESULTS AND SCORESHEETS

Porto Robur Costa Ravenna 0-3 Sir Volley Perugia (19-25, 23-25, 22-25)

Ravenna: Saitta 3, Poglajen 5, Verhees 4, Rychlicki 13, Raffaelli 7, Russo 7, Marchini (L), Baroni (L), Goi (L), Argenta 0, Di Tommaso 0.

Perugia: De Cecco 3, Lanza 9, Podrascanin 7, Atanasijevic 13, Leòn 20, Ricci 3, Piccinelli (L), Colaci (L), Della Lunga 0, Hoag 0.

MVP: Wilfredo Leòn (Perugia)

Top Volley Latina 0-3 Lube Civitanova (14-25, 15-25, 18-25)

Latina: Sottile 0, Parodi 2, Rossi 3, Stern T. 8, Palacios 5, Gitto 4, Caccioppola (L), Santucci (L), Gavenda 3, Huang 0, Ngapeth 3, Stern Z. 3.

Civitanova: Bruno 4, Juantorena 12, Cester 7, Sokolov 10, Leal 15, Stankovic 7, Marchisio (L), Balaso (L), Sander 0.

MVP: Yoandy Leal (Civitanova)

Power Volley Milano 1-3 Trentino Volley (25-19, 19-25, 17-25, 23-25)

Milano: Izzo 2, Clevenot 11, Kozamernik 5, Abdel-Aziz 18, Maar 16, Bossi 8, Hoffer (L), Pesaresi (L), Sbertoli 0, Basic 3.

Trento: Giannelli 5, Kovacevic 15, Codarin 7, Vettori 15, Russell 19, Candellaro 7, De Angelis (L), Nelli 0, Grebennikov (L).

MVP: Uros Kovacevic (Trento)

Pallavolo Padova 3-0 Blu Volley Verona (25-18, 25-19, 25-15)

Padova: Travica 1, Louati 10, Polo 10, Torres 17, Cirovic 9, Volpato 9, Bassanello (L), Cottarelli 0, Danani La Fuente (L), Barnes 0.

Verona: Spirito 4, Manavinezhad 7, Solé 7, Boyer 4, Kaziyski 11, Birarelli 1, Giuliani (L), De Pandis (L), Sharifi 1, Alletti 3, Magalini 0, Marretta 0, Pinelli 0.

MVP: Oscar Torres (Padova)

Modena Volley 1-3 Vero Volley Monza (22-25, 26-28, 25-20, 18-25)

Modena: Keemink 3, Urnaut 19, Anzani 6, Zaytsev 12, Bednorz 10, Holt 7, Benvenuti (L), Rossini (L), Pierotti 0, Lusetti 0, Mazzone 0, Kaliberda 5, Pinali 3.

Monza: Orduna 2, Dzavoronok 15, Yosifov 10, Buchegger 20, Botto 15, Beretta 10, Giannotti 0, Rizzo (L), Galliani 2, Buti 0.

MVP: Santiago Orduna (Monza)

Callipo Vibo Valentia 1-3 Argos Sora (27-25, 16-25, 23-25, 20-25)

Vibo: Zhukouski 3, Strohbach 9, Vitelli 6, Al Hachdadi 19, Skrimov 12, Mengozzi 9, Cappio (L), Marsili 0, Marra (L), Lopez 2, Presta 1, Barreto Silva 1, Domagala 4.

Sora: Kedzierski 4, De Barros Ferreira 19, Caneschi 9, Petkovic 25, Fey 8, Di Martino 6, Mauti (L), Marrazzo 0, Bonami (L), Bermudez 0.

MVP: Joao Rafael De Barros Ferreira (Sora)

New Mater Castellana Grotte 3-2 Emma Villas Siena (28-26, 23-25, 16-25, 25-22, 15-13)

Castellana: Falaschi 2, Wlodarczyk 19, Scopelliti 5, Zingel 13, Mirzajanpourmouziraji 21, De Togni 5, Pace (L), Cavaccini (L), Quartarone 0, Studzinski Rodrigues 2.

Siena: Marouflakrani 5, Ishikawa 28, Gladyr 10, Hernandez Ramos 26, Savani 9, Cortesia 5, Caldelli (L), Giovi (L), Giraudo 1, Van De Voorde 0, Vedovotto 0, Maruotti 0.

MVP: Wojciech Wlodarczyk (Castellana)

STANDINGS

Perugia – 60 (Q)

Trento – 57 (Q)

Lube – 56 (Q)

Modena, Milano – 45 (P)

Verona – 37 (P)

Padova – 35 (P)

Monza – 33

Ravenna – 25

Sora – 24

Latina – 23

Vibo – 19

Siena – 14

Castellana – 10 (R)

Q = clinched home field advantage for quarterfinals

P = clinched playoff berth

R = relegated

New Results

Civitanova losing 2-3

Trento losing 0-3

Siena winning 3-0

Castellana winning 3-0/3-1

STATISTICAL LEADERS – PLAYERS

Points (match day): Yuki Ishikawa (Siena) – 28

Points (Superleague): Dusan Petkovic (Sora) – 516

Points per set: Dusan Petkovic (Sora) – 5.73

Aces (match day): Yoandy Leal (Civitanova), Uros Kovacevic (Trento) – 4

Aces (Superleague): Wilfredo Leòn (Perugia) – 81

Aces per set: Wilfredo Leòn (Perugia) – 1.05

Blocks (match day): Viktor Yosifov (Monza) – 7

Blocks (Superleague): Viktor Yosifov (Monza) – 63

Blocks per set: Viktor Yosifov (Monza) – 0.77

STATISTICAL LEADERS – TEAMS

Kill % (match day): Civitanova – 64%

Kill % (Superleague): Perugia – 56.6%

Aces (match day): Trento, Civitanova, Sora – 9

Total aces: Perugia – 217

Aces/set: Perugia – 2.71

Blocks (match day): Monza – 16

Total blocks: Verona – 237

Blocks/set: Verona – 2.63

NEXT ROUND (March 10th, 6 pm Italian, noon ET):

Siena – Modena (RaiSport)

Civitanova – Milano (March 9th)

Trento – Ravenna

Perugia – Padova (March 9th, RaiSport)

Sora – Latina

Verona – Vibo

Monza – Castellana

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