Lega Pallavolo Serie A Femminile 2021 - News

Italian League FInal preview

Conegliano's Egonu, the league's top scorer, will star in an intriguing duel with Monza's Danesi (11), the championship's best blocker

When the 2021-2022 Lega Pallavolo vivo Serie A1 Femminile season began back in October, 14 teams lined up to with different goals and ambitions, some to win the Italian title. Six months and 196 matches later, only two teams remain in the race for the ultimate prize – Prosecco Doc Imoco Volley Conegliano and Vero Volley Monza.

The team that finished top of the regular season will take on the team that finished third as the Italian League Final begins on Saturday, at 20.30 CET / 18.30 GMT, with Conegliano hosting the opening match of the best-of-five series at the Palaverde, in Treviso.

Winners of the Italian League in the last three seasons, reigning European champions Conegliano will attempt to add their names to an exclusive group of five clubs who have won the national title in four consecutive seasons in the country.

Monza, on the other hand, have already made history. Their appearance in the Final has already guaranteed them their best result since they joined the elite of Italian women’s volleyball, back in 2016-2017.

Conegliano were the best team of the regular season, with 23 wins in 26 matches, but that doesn’t mean their season has been an absolute success so far. The defending champions, who lost a single match in 44 regular season encounters during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 regular seasons, saw their 720-day, 76-match Guinness World Record winning streak come to an end in December at the hands of Il Bisonte Firenze.

Since the start of the playoffs, however, the Panthers have returned to the form that made them the best team in the world and cruised past Firenze and CEV Challenge Cup winners Savino del Bene Scandicci to return to the Lega Final this year.

“This season, we had to deal with some problems that slowed us down a bit,” outside hitter Mirian Sylla said. “But I feel like we’re in a great moment now and everything is going well. We’re excited that we made it to the final and are looking forward to trying to take the title again.”

One thing that has remained consistent for Conegliano this season is star opposite Paola Egonu's contribution to the team. The 23-year-old Italian has partnered with setter Joanna Wolosz to great effect and was the top scorer of the regular season with 651 points, almost 100 more than the second most efficient scorer on the list. In the playoffs, Egonu has averaged over 25 points per match and produced a whopping 35 in the second leg of the semifinals against Scandicci. Egonu is also the second-best server of the Italian League, and has hit 51 aces in 115 sets.

Monza were at the top of the standings in the Italian League for several weeks during the regular season, but dropped from that position in March after an upset against Firenze. They remained among the top three teams in the league for basically the entire season and established themselves as title contenders after years of continued growth.

The team coached by Marco Gaspari had a relatively uneventful quarterfinal series with Reale Mutua Fenera Chieri, but needed their “hearts, minds and nerves”, as outside hitter Alessia Gennari said, to prevail over Igor Gorgonzola Novara in their semifinal series that went to the fifth set of the third and final match. Monza came back from a 2-0 deficit to win the duel and enter their first final with confidence.

“It means so much to us to take this club to the final for the first time,” setter Alessia Orro said. “And now we’ll fight for the title.”

The best blocker of the season with 98 stuffs, captain Anna Danesi has been a rare individual standout in a Monza team that has thrived on its collective strengths. The first-time finalists got an interesting boost of talent mid-season with the arrivals of Americans Jordan Larson, the MVP of last year’s Tokyo Olympics, and Dana Rettke, who immediately became a starter as well.

Although past encounters between the two teams show a clear advantage for Conegliano, who have won 16 of the 18 encounters held to date, Monza have shown they can challenge the defending champions by pushing them to five sets in the first half of the regular season and prevailing 3-1 in the second.