Super Lega 2022 - News

LUbe 1302

Nikolov was on fire as Lube took care of Milano in three sets at home

Homecourt advantage was a big factor in the opening leg of the SuperLega Credem Banca semifinals as Cucine Lube Civitanova and Itas Trentino fed from the energy of their fans to start strong and win the first duels in their best-of-five series on Thursday.

The teams will have an advantage heading into the second leg of the semifinals, which will take place on Sunday, at 18:00 local time (16:00 UTC), when Allianz Milano host Lube and Gas Sales Bluenergy Piacenza play at home against Trentino.

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Lube started the semifinals with a strong performance in front of their home fans in Civitanova Marche and gave no chance to Milano, winning in straight sets (25-17, 25-22, 25-17). It was the fourth-straight victory of the defending champions, who were trailing WithU Verona 2-0 in their quarterfinal series before turning things around and winning 3-2.

Bulgarian rising star Aleksandar Nikolov had yet another spectacular performance in the SuperLega playoffs as the 19-year-old outside hitter left the court with 17 points (15 kills, two aces). Fellow outside hitter Marlon Yant and star opposite Ivan Zaytsev also played big roles in Lube’s triumph, adding 13 and ten points, respectively.

“It was important for us to start on the right foot,” libero Fabio Balaso reacted. “I think our defensive system was really strong tonight and that helped us contain their main offensive players, which was one of the keys to our victory. The fans were amazing tonight and I hope we can keep this atmosphere until the end of the season.”

Milano, who saw Japanese star outside hitter Yuki Ishikawa have a difficult night with only seven points, counted on the production of French Olympic champion opposite Jean Patry, who tallied 12 points (all in kills) and was the only player in the team to score in double digits.

“Lube ended their quarterfinal series on Saturday while we had to play on Monday and these two extra days certainly had an impact today,” Milano's coach Roberto Piazza analysed. “But this is not an excuse. We're facing a very strong team, which was better than us in every skill, except blocking. We know we have a lot to improve for the next match.”

In Trento, 2022 FIVB Men’s Club World Championship silver medallists Trentino looked fresh after an 11-day break between the end of their quarterfinal series and dominated Coppa Italia winners Piacenza to secure a 3-0 (25-23, 25-22, 25-18) victory and prevail over their rivals for the first time in the season after three setbacks.

Trentino had world champion Daniele Lavia in a great night as the 23-year-old outside hitter led the team’s offence with 13 points (12 kills, one block). Bulgarian legendary opposite and team captain Matey Kaziyski came right next, with 11 points (eight kills, two aces, one block).

“I think we could have played with a little more intensity, but I can only be happy about the result we got,” Trentino’s coach Angelo Lorenzetti said. “Winning the first set was really pivotal for us because if Piacenza had a 1-0 lead, the match would get a lot more difficult. I guarantee they will play better at home on Sunday, so we'll need to be more efficient too.”

Piacenza, who couldn't follow up on three consecutive victories over Valsa Group Modena in the quarterfinals, had their three main hitters producing nine points each in Brazilian outside hitter Yoandy Leal, Cuban middle blocker Robertlandy Simón and Italian opposite Yuri Romanò.

“I don’t think we played with the right spirit tonight,” Piacenza’s coach Massimo Botti reflected. “We lacked the attitude of a team that wants to bring the title home and we’ll need it between now and the end of the season. We have some great qualities as a team, but we also have weaknesses and we need to know how to mask them during matches.”