Wallace's stellar performance helped Sada Cruzeiro start the final series in advantage (Photo: Agencia i7/Sada Cruzeiro)

Reigning world champions Sada Cruzeiro Volei were on the ropes against rivals Fiat Gerdau Minas in the first leg of the Finals of the Men’s Brazilian Superliga but fed from the energy of their fans to turn things around and start the best-of-three series that will determine the national champions with a win.

Playing at the Divino Braga Stadium, in Betim, the six-time Brazilian champions downed the best team of the Superliga regular season in five sets (26-24, 21-25, 15-25, 25-22, 15-11) and are now just one win away from their seventh national title.

Sada Cruzeiro have won five of the last seven editions of the Superliga, with their most recent title dating back to the 2017-2018 season. Minas have nine national titles and last stepped on to the top of the podium in 2006-2007.

Star opposite Wallace de Souza was instrumental to Sada Cruzeiro’s victory in the first leg of the finals. A Rio 2016 Olympic champion, the Most Valuable Player of the 2021 Volleyball Nations League came up big, especially in the tie-breaker, and took home the MVP award after he scored 25 points (22 kills, two aces, one block).

“We knew it was going to be as hard as it was,” Wallace reflected. “We were a little inconsistent with our passing and that made us struggle in some moments. Winning this match was an important step for us, but the series is far from over. We won’t play in front of our fans in the next matches and will need to make some small adjustments and limit our mistakes to take the title.”


Lopez's offence was again on point for Sada Cruzeiro (Photo: Agencia i7/Sada Cruzeiro)

Also scoring in double digits for the winners were outside hitters Rodriguinho Leao, with 15 points (all in kills), and Miguel Angel Lopez, with 13 (ten kills, two blocks, one ace), and middle blocker Otavio Pinto, with 12 (eight kills, three blocks, one ace).

Minas concentrated their offence on outside hitter Henrique Honorato, who tallied 19 points (15 kills, three blocks, one ace), and Cuban opposite Michael Sanchez, who produced 18 (16 kills, two blocks). Outside hitter Leozinho Nascimento added another 12 (eight kills, three aces, one block).

“It was an incredible match, one that made me really happy to play in,” said Minas’ setter and captain William Arjona, a Rio 2016 Olympic champion. “We leave the court with a bad taste in our mouths because it could have gone our way, but in matches like this, it will always be about the details. Wallace had a tremendous night and made the difference, especially in the fifth set. But this was just the first match. We’re in a good moment, we pushed them to their limit and will keep fighting for the title.”


Honorato scored the most points among Minas's players with 19 (Photo: Orlando Bento/MTC)

The second match of the finals will be played next Sunday in a location to be determined. If needed, a third encounter will take place on May 8.