Can an American’s knee injury in Perugia result in a Chinese player taking a flight to Scandicci about a month later? Obviously it can. This is the story of the domino effect which resulted in a number of Italy’s Lega Pallavolo Serie A1 Femminile clubs making midseason changes at the setter position.

On December 3, during the fourth set of Igor Gorgonzola Novara’s 3-1 victory at Bartoccini-Fortinfissi Perugia, their 25-year-old American setter Jordyn Poulter suffered a serious knee injury, which meant the season was over for her. Novara lost their Tokyo 2020 Olympic champions and needed to find a swift solution.

On the last day of December, Igor Gorgonzola announced the arrival of Carlotta Cambi. An Il Bisonte Firenze player since 2020, the 26-year-old playmaker accepted the offer to return to the club, where she played in the 2016-2017 season and won the national title. Cambi was a member of the Italian national team when they won silvers at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship and the 2017 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix. The first time she transferred to Novara was right after she had won the 2016 CEV Champions League with Pomì Casalmaggiore.

“I accepted the opportunity to return to Novara with enthusiasm,” Cambi said. “I am convinced that all the conditions for making an excellent second half of the season are there and I am ready to participate. I'm linked to Novara by many positive memories and now I'm sure I'll create new ones.”

Novara have already won their first two matches after Cambi’s arrival, a four-set away victory at CBF Balducci HR Macerata and a straight-set home win over Wash4Green Pinerolo. They are currently fourth in the standings on a 12-3 win-loss record and 34 points.

With Cambi’s departure, Firenze lost their main setter, but also their team captain. Belgian star Britt Herbots soon took over the role of captain, and it did not take long to resolve the setter issue either. On January 12, Il Bisonte announced the arrival of none other than the Italian national team playmaker Ofelia Malinov, a 2018 World Championship silver medallist and Dream Teamer. The 26-year-old setter switched clubs after a very successful 2022, when she won a Volleyball Nations League gold and a World Championship bronze with Italy, as well as the CEV Challenge Cup with Savino Del Bene Scandicci, the club she spent the last four and a half seasons with.

“I am super happy to have arrived at Il Bisonte and I can't wait to make my contribution,” Malinov said upon arrival in Florence. “It's an opportunity that came up suddenly and I'm delighted to have seized it. My goal is to grow with the team between now and the end of the season.”

Interestingly, in her last match for Scandicci on December 26, Malinov captained the team to a four-set win over her next club Firenze. At her debut for Il Bisonte on January 15, the team claimed a five-set home victory over Volley Bergamo 1991. It was their fifth win since the start of the season and it keeps them well in the race for a spot in the playoffs. They currently stand 11th on 16 points, two short of the eighth-place cut-off.

Scandicci reacted to Malinov’s departure instantly and just a day after it was announced, they also announced her replacement, Chinese national team playmaker Yao Di. The 30-year-old playmaker took the flight to Italy just days after claiming her ninth league title in China with Tianjin Bohai Bank, to join her compatriot Zhu Ting at Savino Del Bene. Before the first international transfer of her career, Yao had also won five Asian Club Championship medals, including two titles, with Tianjin, and a number of podiums with the national team, including gold medals at the 2019 FIVB Volleyball World Cup and  a 2018 World Championship bronze.

“This is my first time playing for a foreign club,” Yao Di said. “I hope, with the support of our fans, I can give my best.”

Yao made her first appearance for her new team on Sunday as second-placed Scandicci (12-3 and 38 points) took a 3-1 away victory over Megabox Ondulati Del Savio Vallefoglia.

Maybe she will get more playing time on Saturday, when Scandicci welcome Novara with Carlotta Cambi in the most interesting clash of the weekend’s 16th round. On Sunday, Malinov will have the opportunity to lead Firenze to another win as they visit Pinerolo.

· Watch all Lega Pallavolo Serie A1 matches live or on demand on Volleyball TV.

This weekend’s Lega Pallavolo Serie A1 Femminile schedule:

Jan 21, 20:00 local (19:00 UTC): Prosecco Doc Imoco Conegliano v Megabox Ondulati Del Savio Vallefoglia

Jan 21, 20:30 local (19:30 UTC): Savino Del Bene Scandicci v Igor Gorgonzola Novara

Jan 21, 20:30 local (19:30 UTC): e-work Busto Arsizio v Bartoccini-Fortinfissi Perugia

Jan 22, 17:00 local (16:00 UTC): Volley Bergamo 1991 v Vero Volley Milano

Jan 22, 17:00 local (16:00 UTC): CBF Balducci HR Macerata v Reale Mutua Fenera Chieri

Jan 22, 17:00 local (16:00 UTC): Trasportipesanti Casalmaggiore v Cuneo Granda S.Bernardo

Jan 22, 19:30 local (18:30 UTC): Wash4Green Pinerolo v Il Bisonte Firenze