Super Lega 2021 - News

Monza’s Gyorgy Grozer, Gianluca Galassi and Donovan Dzavoronok on the block against Lube’s Ricardo Lucarelli

Monza’s Gyorgy Grozer, Gianluca Galassi and Donovan Dzavoronok on the block against Lube’s Ricardo Lucarelli

Italy’s SuperLega Credem Banca playoff showdown is about to get underway. The best-of-three quarterfinal series will begin this weekend with Itas Trentino taking on Gas Sales Bluenergy Piacenza (20.30 on Saturday), Leo Shoes PerkinElmer Modena entertaining Allianz Milano, Cucine Lube Civitanova welcoming Vero Volley Monza and Top Volley Cisterna playing away to Sir Safety Conad Perugia (all at 18.00 on Sunday).

With Bulgarian star Matey Kaziyski back captaining the squad, Trentino can remind themselves of the glory days when they won four FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship titles and three CEV Champions League trophies. They will hope time has come for their fifth national championship gold, an achievement they have been chasing since 2015. After winning the Supercoppa trophy in October, reaching the Coppa Italia final last month, finishing the SuperLega regular season in third place on a 17-7 win-loss record and 53 points, Trentino will be considered favourites in their series against Piacenza. They also have talented players like Serbian middle blockers Marko Podrascanin and Srecko Lisinac, rising Italian stars Alessandro Michieletto, Daniele Lavia and magical playmaker Riccardo Sbertoli. And in the most recent encounter between the two teams, a SuperLega match in late February, coach Angelo Lorenzetti’s players claimed a four-set victory in Piacenza.

In fact, the last time Piacenza were able to beat Trentino was way back in November 2016. With French Olympic champions Antoine Brizard and Thibault Rossard, USA’s Aaron Russell, Slovenia’s Toncek Stern and Turkey Adis Lagumdzija on the team, however, they certainly what it takes to upset their opponents on the way to the semifinals. Piacenza finished the regular season in sixth place on a 12-12 win-loss record and 37 points.

“Gas Sales Bluenergy had ups and downs in the regular season, but on paper they have important absolute values. I expect that in the quarterfinal against us they will be able to play high-level volleyball, pushing hard in every offensive fundamental.” Giulio Pinali, opposite of Itas Trentino
“We are preparing for the playoffs and getting there with a win (in the last regular season match) gives us confidence. Trentino gave us a hard time in the regular season, but the playoffs are a league of their own. It will be tough, but we want to give our best.” Damiano Catania, libero of Gas Sales Bluenergy Piacenza

In terms of regular season standings, fourth-placed Modena and fifth-placed Milano are the most evenly matched rivals in the quarterfinal playoffs. The last time the two teams met, they engaged in a rollercoaster battle with Modena emerging with a five-set away win. Allianz and Leo Shoes also met in the concluding stage of the previous SuperLega season, when the team from Modena took a four-set victory in Milan in the direct duel for the fifth place in the final standings. Modena are the most decorated club in the history of the Italian league. Their most recent of 12 national titles came in 2016.

Coach Andrea Giani’s stellar squad may not have lived up to expectations by finishing fourth in the regular season, so perhaps the playoffs are the time when hiring some of the world’s top players like Tokyo 2020 MVP Earvin Ngapeth, Brazil’s Bruno Rezende and Yoandy Leal or Dutch standout Nimir Abdel-Aziz will really start paying off.

However, with the likes of Frenchmen Jean Patry and Barthelemy Chinenyeze, USA’s Thomas Jaeschke, Japan’s Yuki Ishikawa and lots of Italian talent on their roster, Milano’s coach Roberto Piazza has no reason to back off, even if his team are yet to win a championship.

“We have to be ready because the most important phase of the championship is beginning. Milano are a dangerous team in defence and counterattack, but we have to focus on our own game.” Yoandy Leal, outside hitter of Leo Shoes PerkinElmer Modena

Lube, on the other hand, have been having a very tough season, battling on five fronts for five different trophies. After missing out on the Supercoppa final, on defending the Club World Championship crown, the Coppa Italia trophy, and reaching the Champions League semifinals, they now have only the national championship gold to go after for the rest of the season. And “the rest of the season” for them starts on Sunday with their quarterfinal encounter with Monza, the team that eliminated them in October’s Supercoppa semifinals.

Still, Lube were able to restore their confidence with two straight-set victories over Vero Volley in the regular season, which helped them finish in the runner-up position. Coach Gianlorenzo Blengini and team (including Argentinean playmaker Luciano De Cecco, Cuban middle Robertlandy Simon, Brazilian outside Ricardo Lucarelli, Italian opposite Ivan Zaytsev, and a now healthy Osmany Juantorena) and the rest of their teammates can approach their next encounters with the seventh-placed opponent in the role of favourites on a quest for the seventh national title in the club’s history.

German standout Gyorgy Grozer and his Monza teammates’ self-confidence ahead of the Italian playoffs may depend a lot on whether or not they win the first major men’s trophy in the history of the club when they travel to France’s Tours for Wednesday’s deciding second leg of the CEV Cup final.

Finally, the quarterfinal between regular season winners Perugia (22-2, 67 points) and eighth-placed Cisterna (10-14, 30) seems to be the easiest to predict. With Wilfredo Leon, Simone Gianelli, Sebastian Sole and Matthew Anderson in their line-up, the recent Coppa Italia winners are the favourites to win the series, but also to win the championship. They are on an 18-game winning streak across all competitions, cruising confidently towards their second SuperLega title (after 2018).

Cisterna’s last win over Perugia dates back to almost 10 years ago. Fabio Soli’s squad claimed a last-minute booking for the playoffs and may already be content with what they have achieved. However, Stephen Maar, Tommaso Rinaldi and their teammates might well be hungry for more...

The quarterfinals' second-leg matches will take place on April 2 and 3. Third-leg deciders, if needed, will be played the following weekend.

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