Lodz, Poland, March 15, 2017. Cucine Lube CIVITANOVA maintain their perfect record in 2017 after they beat PGE Skra BELCHATOW 3-1 (25-21, 21-25, 25-23, 25-21) in the first round of the Playoffs 12. The Italians have only lost their first match in Pool B in Europe’s elite competition this season and they are now ‘only’ two sets away from making it to the Playoffs 6.
It has never been easy for Italian teams when playing at Atlas Arena in Lodz and it was not any different this time. However, Cucine Lube survived difficult moments and showed great team spirit in the crucial stages of the match to emerge victorious in four sets.
The first bad news for the 8,100 fans wearing yellow and black outfits came before the match, when it turned out that Bartosz Kurek was injured. Without one of their main weapons, PGE Skra were able to keep the pace of the Italian standout only up to the second technical time-out of the opening set. Great efficiency from Mariusz Wlazly, who scored no less than seven points, was not enough for PGE Skra.
The Polish team’s captain continued delivering a solid performance in the second set, which PGE Skra eventually won. Tsvetan Sokolov and Osmany Juantorena were the real leaders of Cucine Lube from the very beginning, however, when Wlazly received huge support not only from Nikolay Penchev, but from the middle blockers as well, things started to get more and more difficult for Cucine Lube.
The final phase of the third set also showed the power of the main stars from CIVITANOVA. The score stood at 22-21 when Sokolov scored his point no. 8 in the set, finishing an attack from a very difficult position. This rally started a series of three points in a row scored by Cucine Lube and ultimately helped the Italians win a crucial set.
“We kept our heads clear in the crucial moments. We were concentrated until the very end and managed to serve very well despite our opponents’ great reception. Nicolas Uriarte did a great job in trying to surprise our block but we stopped their attackers in the most important rallies,” commented Cucine Lube head coach Gianlorenzo Blengini.
Home mentor Philippe Blain could not stop saying good words about the level of the Match of the Week: “I am proud of my team, we fought until the end and we are going to show a good spirit also in Italy. The only thing I did not like about my team is that our float service was too weak but other than this, our performance was on a high level. They just had more stars on their side, the players, who were crucial and decisive in the end,” summed up the PGE Skra coach.
The rivalry between Juantorena and Wlazly was the real highlight of the match. The last word belonged to the Cuban outside hitter, who blocked Wlazly to make it 23-18 in the fourth set. The captain of the Polish team tried to fight back but it was too late, both for him and for PGE Skra.
Sokolov and Juantorena were the best scorers for Cucine Lube with 27 and 18 points, respectively. Wlazly recorded 23 and Penchev added 12 for Skra.
“It is not over yet. We still have got chances and we are going to fight until the end,” stated PGE Skra setter Nicolas Uriarte.
“We did our job perfectly in the first half of this duel. However, we do not think it is all over. We have to stay focussed and concentrated, PGE Skra is too good a team to underestimate them in the return match,” Gianlorenzo Blengini concluded.
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