Ivan Zaytsev, Robertlandy Simon and Marlon Yant on the block against Wilfredo Leon (source: legavolley.it)

Robertlandy Simon was on fire for Cucine Lube Civitanova as he led his team to success in a thrilling five-setter at Sir Safety Conad Perugia that marked the beginning of an exciting SuperLega Credem Banca championship playoff.

The defending champions started Sunday’s match by dominating the first set. Hosts Perugia, however, recovered from a four-point deficit in the second set to level the score, before edging forward to claim the third. Lube then regained control to win the next two sets and celebrate a 3-2 (25-17, 26-28, 20-25, 25-17, 15-13) victory.

Perugia v Lube: Top Plays

Regular season winners and reigning national cup laureates Perugia will, however, get a chance to react when they travel to the Eurosuole Forum in Civitanova Marche for the second game of the best-of-five series on Wednesday, May 4, at 20:30 local time. And you can watch all the action LIVE on Volleyball TV. Perugia were also behind twice in their semifinal series against Leo Shoes PerkinElmer Modena, but eventually overcame their opponents. It remains to be seen if they can do it again.

2.08m-tall middle blocker Simon earned the MVP nomination by leading the match scorers on a total of 20 points. The Cuban star had his way in 82% of his spike attempts and added three aces and three kill blocks to his tally. His younger compatriot Marlon Yant added 19 points, including two aces, towards the win. Brazilian outside Riccardo Lucarelli contributed 16 points, and Italian opposite Ivan Zaytsev scored 11.

“It was a great match! Despite the ups and downs, we took it home! Winning here was very important. We came to fight and show how much we are worth. It is, above all, important to keep the team spirit high because that's what really shifts the balance. Now we just have to rest and focus on Wednesday's commitment. The road is still long!” Robertlandy Simon, middle blocker of Cucine Lube Civitanova

Perugia v Lube: Top Scorer Robertlandy Simon

Four players scored in double digits on Perugia’s side too. Luxembourgish opposite Kamil Rychlicki led the way with 14 points, followed by American outside Matthew Anderson with 13 and Cuban-born Polish international Wilfredo Leon with 12. Italian middle blocker Fabio Ricci impressed with an 89% success rate in attack and three stuff blocks towards an 11-point tally.

“We have to forget this match. The playoffs are like this - reset and think about the next one. We can do better. We’ve done it and we can do it again!” Sebastian Sole, middle blocker of Sir Safety Conad Perugia

Who will win the second match of the series?

In the meantime, the fourth leg of the round robin for fifth place was played over the weekend and two teams, Gas Sales Bluenergy Piacenza and Top Volley Cisterna, booked their spots in the semifinal battles towards securing the right to represent Italy in next season’s CEV Challenge Cup. The remaining two semifinalists will emerge after the last matches on Tuesday. Allianz Milano, Vero Volley Monza and Verona Volley are the three teams in contention. Gioiella Prisma Taranto no longer have a shot at progressing.

Adis Lagumdzija scored 25 points to steer Piacenza to a 3-2 (23-25, 25-22, 25-19, 20-25, 15-9) home win over Verona. Piacenza remain unbeaten in this race and lead the current standings on 11 points - Verona are just below the cut-off for the semis, in fifth place, on a 1-3 win-loss record and 4 points. Cisterna are second on 3-1 and 9 points after mastering a 3-0 (25-16, 25-16, 25-13) victory at Monza, leaving their opponents in fourth place on 2-2 and 6. Milano are third in the table, with the same record. On Saturday, they travelled to Taranto to produce a 3-0 (25-17, 25-23, 25-23) shutout with a solid performance by French middle blocker and Olympic champion Barthelemy Chinenyeze – 10 kills at a 91% success rate, five stuff blocks and three aces.

Tuesday’s last-leg fixtures are Monza v Taranto (14:30), Milano v Piacenza (20:30) and Cisterna v Verona (20:30).

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