Monza Novara

The exciting Lega Pallavolo vivo Serie A1 Femminile semifinal series between Igor Gorgonzola Novara and Vero Volley Monza is set for a spectacular ending on Wednesday, when the two teams meet for a third and final time at 20.30 CET / 18.30 GMT to determine who advances to the final against defending champions Prosecco Doc Imoco Volley Conegliano.

The third match of the series will be the climax of what has been a thrilling semifinal. It all started on April 21 with Novara securing a 3-2 home victory. That was followed on Sunday by a victory for Monza, who called the shots at their stadium to win in straight sets and keep their hopes of progressing alive.

The outcome of the series will also dictate the narrative of the Italian League Final. If Novara advance, they will compete for the national title for a fifth-straight season (and for a fourth consecutive time against Conegliano). Monza, on the other hand, could appear in their first final to date and improve on their third-place finish in 2020-2021.

Novara were the better of the two teams over the course of the regular season. They won 23 matches to finish second - Monza triumphed 20 times to finish third. The team coached by Stefano Lavarini have, however, been inconsistent since the start of the playoffs. They dropped a match to seventh-placed Bosca S. Bernardo Cuneo in the quarterfinals and were pushed to five sets by Monza at home at the start of the semifinals.

“We need to be able to handle any situation. We can’t only play at our best when things are going well,” Lavarini said on Sunday. “The series is now tied and we’ll play the final match at home. We’ll prepare for every situation so we can make it to the final, which is our goal.”

Besides excitement and unpredictability, the series also features plenty of star power. Nine players represented their countries at last year’s Tokyo Olympics. They include three Americans: Monza’s outside hitter Jordan Larson (the MVP of the Games), Novara’s setter Micha Hancock and middle blocker Haleigh Washington, who all claimed gold in Japan.

The teams also rely on other international stars, like Novara’s outside hitter duo of Britt Herbots and Nika Daalderop, and also Monza’s opposites, Magdalena Stysiak and Lise van Hecke.

The way the two teams have used their key players has also been worth watching. Novara have largely concentrated their actions on Turkish opposite Ebrar Karakurt and on Dutch outside hitter Daalderop, who produced 40 and 27 points, respectively, in the first matches of the series.

Karakurt Novara

Karakurt has led Novara's offence in the series against Monza

Monza, on the other hand, had four different players reaching double digits in scoring across the two matches. Their leading scorers were outside hitters Larson, with 25 points, and Alessia Gennari, with 18.

Novara entered last Sunday’s encounter on a five-match winning streak against Monza and, despite seeing their run come to an end, still have a favourable history against their opponents. They have won ten of the 17 meetings since 2016, including two matches in last year’s Lega’s semifinal round.