Sylla

Conegliano and Firenze will feature in an exciting series after a historical match in the regular season

After six months and 182 matches of exciting regular season volleyball, the Lega Pallavolo vivo Serie A1 Femminile starts its decisive phase this weekend, with the first encounters of each of the four best-of-three quarterfinal series taking place between Saturday and Sunday.

The opening match of the quarterfinal round will reunite second-placed Igor Gorgonzola Novara and seventh-placed Bosca S. Bernardo Cuneo on Saturday, at 20.30 local time. Thirty minutes later, top-seeded and defending champions Prosecco Doc Imoco Volley Conegliano face eighth-placed Il Bisonte Firenze.

Sunday’s schedule starts at 17.00 local time with fourth-placed Savino Del Bene Scandicci clashing with fifth Unet E-Work Busto Arsizio. Third-placed Vero Volley Monza and sixth-ranked Reale Mutua Fenera Chieri play the fourth and final match of the first weekend of the playoffs at 19.30.

Separated by just six points in the standings at the end of the regular season, Scandicci and Busto are expected to appear in one of the most competitive quarterfinal duels of the Italian League. That’s what happened last season, when the teams met in the same phase and Scandicci advanced with a pair of five-set victories. The teams have met three times already this season and while Scandicci came out on top in both Lega encounters, Busto eliminated their rivals from the Italian Cup in the quarterfinals.

After they ended the regular season with two consecutive victories, Scandicci hope to continue with the good momentum they created after winning the CEV Challenge Cup last month.

Despite having experienced hitters like London 2012 Olympic champion outside hitter Natalia Pereira and German star opposite Louisa Lippmann, Scandicci have also benefited from the great production of their younger players including outside hitter Elena Pietrini, 22, and opposite Ekaterina Antropova, 19, who rank first and second in points scored for the team with 284 and 280, respectively. The Russian was also the league’s second-best server in the regular season, firing 41 aces.

Antropova

The 2.02m-tall Antropova was one of Scandicci's most productive players this season

With Busto, most of the offensive production comes from opposite Camilla Mingardi, who produced 524 points in the regular season, the second-most in the entire league. The team seems to be headed in a positive direction for the playoffs as after having to use veteran outside hitter Lucia Bosetti as a setter following the injuries of Jordyn Poulter and Sofia Monza, Busto have now signed Argentinean Vicky Mayer, a Tokyo Olympian, who made her debut last weekend.

“I think I did well in my first match,” Mayer said after her debut. “I’m sure that after a few more days of practice we’ll fine-tune what we need ahead of the playoffs.”

Mayer

Mayer in action during her first match with Busto

Conegliano earned 28 points more than Firenze (66 to 38) during the regular season, but, despite having eliminated their opponents with straight-set victories in the playoffs last year, the defending champions will certainly enter the series cautiously after Firenze proved to be a difficult team to deal with this season.

Firenze caused the major upset of the season so far by defeating Conegliano in five sets in the first leg of the season to end their Guinness World Record undefeated run that lasted 720 days and 76 matches. In the second leg, Firenze gave Conegliano another scare, winning the first set of their meeting, which eventually ended 3-1 in favour of the defending champions.

Imoco Volley Conegliano vs. Il Bisonte Firenze - Match Highlights

“The playoffs are the most exciting part of the season,” said Conegliano setter Joanna Wolosz. “We’ll try our best to advance all the way to the final once again and we expect to play in front of a packed stadium against Firenze.”

The encounter will also reunite two of the top scorers of the regular season, Conegliano’s star opposite Paola Egonu, who ranked first with 549 points, and Firenze’s opposite Sylvia Nwakalor, who was third with 516.