The race for the title of the Lega Pallavolo vivo Serie A1 Femminile is down to just four teams and there will be a lot to look out for over the next few days with the start of the best-of-three semifinal series that will reunite the four best teams in the regular season and some of the top players in the world.
Star-studded Lega semifinals reunite Italian giants
Conegliano and Scandicci duel on Wednesday, while Novara and Monza clash on Thursday. Watch all the matches on Volleyball TV!
Publicado 08:12, 20 abr. 2022
The semifinals in Italy start on Wednesday, when defending champions Prosecco Doc Imoco Volley Conegliano host Savino del Bene Scandicci at 20.30. On Thursday, at the same time, Igor Gorgonzola Novara will play at home against Vero Volley Monza.
The best team in the regular season with 23 wins in 26 matches, defending champions Conegliano are undefeated in their last eight matches after they eliminated Il Bisonte Firenze with 3-1 and 3-0 wins in the quarterfinals.
Aiming to play in the finals of the Italian League for a fourth-straight season, Conegliano will rely on the star power of setter Joanna Wolosz, opposite Paola Egonu and middle blocker Robin de Kruijf against Scandicci, but also on their extremely favourable history against their opponents.
The defending champions have fared well against Scandicci, having won the last 11 meetings between the two teams, nine times in straight sets. They have also won a total of 19 of the 23 encounters between the two teams to this day. Their last defeat dates back to 2018.
“Scandicci are a very strong team, they’re capable of getting results against any opponent,” Conegliano’s head coach Daniele Santarelli said. “They’re very well trained by an exceptional coach and have a number of excellent players on their roster. We’ve been successful against them, but we’ve never had easy matches and in the playoffs anything can happen. We need to be ready for a long and difficult series.”
Despite the unfavourable record, Scandicci have shown progress against Conegliano recently, winning a set in both regular season meetings this year and losing four sets by a margin no wider than three points.
Scandicci also enter the series with a lot of confidence after winning the CEV Challenge Cup last month and cruising past Unet E-Work Busto Arsizio in their quarterfinal series with back-to-back sweeps.
Ranked fourth in the regular season with 20 victories, Scandicci have experienced players on their roster like outside hitter Natalia Pereira, setter Ofelia Malinov and libero Brenda Castillo. Their main hope of upsetting Conegliano, however, may come from 19-year-old Russian opposite Ekaterina Antropova, who earned her starting spot during the season and became a key player for the team.
“We’re ready to start a great series with Conegliano and we should be very motivated by the opportunity of taking Scandicci to the final for the first time,” head coach Massimo Barbolini said. “They are one of the best teams in the world and we know that, but we have to think about us and the fact that we’re getting better every match, as we saw against Busto. We will need a lot of courage and intelligence in this series.”
Of the four semifinalists, Novara were the team who were challenged the most in the quarterfinals and were pushed to three matches by Bosca S. Bernardo Cuneo. Their solid straight-set victory on Saturday, however, indicated the team are ready for the semifinals.
Novara won 23 matches in the regular season to finish second. They have one of the deepest rosters in the Italian League with players like setter Micha Hancock, opposite Ebrar Karakurt, middle blockers Cristina Chirichella and Haleigh Washington and outside hitters Britt Herbots and Caterina Bosetti.
“The tough series against Cuneo was great preparation for Monza and I anticipate some really difficult matches too,” Herbots commented. “They’re having a great season, we know we’ll need to raise our level and we’ve done our best to be ready for the first match. Technique and tactics are always important, but I believe whoever has more concentration and determination will win.”
After ranking third in the regular season with 20 victories, Monza held on to that good rhythm at the start of the playoffs, keeping Reale Mutua Fenera Chieri under control in the quarterfinals with a pair of straight-set wins.
The team were really solid during the regular season, topping the standings for a long portion of the initial phase of the championship, and got even stronger ahead of the playoffs with the arrival of Americans Jordan Larson and Dana Rettke, who added to a roster that already featured players like setter Alessia Orro, opposite Lise van Hecke and outside hitter Alessia Gennari.
“We know that Novara are used to the big moments, but we’re ambitious and want to make it to the final for the first time,” head coach Marco Gaspari explained. “We expect a lot more difficulties than we had against Chieri as Novara have great talent and experience. It will be essential for us to be aggressive and patient in the difficult moments.”
Novara have been the most successful side in the 15 times the two clubs have.met, winning nine encounters, including the two that took place this season and two in last year’s semifinal round.