Bre Banca Lannutti CUNEO to challenge Siberian heroes in final match
2013 CEV Volleyball Champions League - Men
Omsk, Russia, March 16, 2013. On Sunday Italy’s Bre Banca Lannutti CUNEO will be playing the home heroes of Lokomotiv NOVOSIBIRSK in the final match of the 2013 CEV Volleyball Champions League. The guys captained by Wout Wijsmans did edge Poland’s Zaksa KEDZIERZYN-KOZLE at the end of a game marked by continuous ups and downs (3:2; 24-26, 25-20, 25-20, 23-25, and 15-10). This will be the fifth time in history that teams from Italy and Russia – it previously happened in 2003, 2008, 2010 and 2011 – will be crossing their ways in the last act of Europe’s most prestigious club competition. The head-to-heads stand at 2 wins apiece for two among Europe’s real Volleyball heavyweights and CUNEO’s win in the semis means that for the ninth time since the CEV Volleyball Champions League was introduced back some 13 years ago an Italian team will be vying for the trophy. In the match with Zaksa, Bre Banca Lannutti did not always shine but showed superb Volleyball in the tie-break to finally get past the strenuous resistance opposed by Zaksa, being very much helped by the 24 points scored by Bulgarian opposite Tsvetan Sokolov.
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Most of the spectators that had followed Lokomotiv victory over last year’s winners Zenit KAZAN decided to prolong their stay at “V. Blinov” sports complex on Saturday evening to watch also the second semi-final match where Bre Banca Lannutti CUNEO of Italy and Zaksa KEDZIERZYN-KOZLE were playing for the most valuable international result in their history.
Though they regularly joined the CEV Volleyball Champions League in the past few years, the Italians had never qualified for the final four of Europe’s elite competition before while Zaksa was returning back to this unique arena 10 years after their last appearance.
The ambiance in Omsk was quite understandably less “hot” than during the first semi-final but this match was also supposed to be closely contested as it wasn’t easy to pick out a pre-favourite going into this game. Bre Banca Lannutti went off to a good start in the first set (8:6) but it looked like – similarly to their opponents from Poland – they still needed some time to find their best play. France’s Antonin Rouzier could level the score for the first time with an ace (9 all). With their fans still stuck in Moscow and supposed to make it to Omsk only on Sunday morning, the Italians enjoyed a little support of the Russian audience, probably due to the fact that their starting six included a Russian guy – Oleg Antonov – who – tough born in Moscow – currently holds Italian citizenship. A small group of supporters from Poland had travelled to Siberia too to support the strong side assembled around captain and setter Pawel Zagumny that eventually flipped the charts around for the first time at 14:15.
Zaksa did not include middle blocker Marcin Mozdzonek in their starting six but another major Volleyball star was missing tonight, as Luigi Mastrangelo was left of the group a while ago due to conflicts with CUNEO head coach Roberto Piazza. Bre Banca Lannutti adjusted their tactics accordingly already since a couple of months and this was enough to claim – at the golden set – the Italian derby with Lube Banca Marche MACERATA in the Playoffs 6.
Back to the game, the score remained close up to the very end (22 all) with single actions hence going to determine the side cruising to a provisional 1:0 lead. France’s Earvin Ngapeth committed a violation of the rules while spiking from the back zone and this way Zaksa could get a first set ball. Rouzier did not exploit this opportunity as he served into the net but Antonov did the same only a few seconds later; Brazilian Luis Felipe Fonteles – one of the most valuable additions to the roster of Zaksa for the current season – stopped that negative streak by acing for the 26-24 whereby KEDZIERZYN-KOZLE got to the front in the score.
Bre Banca Lannutti CUNEO woke up in the early phases of the second set (4:1) and things looked quite promising for the Italians also by the first technical time-out (8:3). With their Bulgarian opposite Tsvetan Sokolov – who already won the Champions League a couple of years ago while representing the likes of TRENTINO Volley – on fire, the Italians moved the score up to 12:6 before their mentor asked for a time-out to stop a series of three points by Zaksa (12:9). His guys responded well by pocketing the next couple of rallies with Ngapeth calling for the second technical time-out (16:11). In comparison with the first, all-Russian semi the tempo of the game was significantly slower but still CUNEO could play well enough to keep control of the operations all the way through (19:14, 21:17) with the 1:1 cashed by the guys in green jerseys on a serving error by Fonteles (25-20).
In the second set CUNEO had made the difference via their good figures in attack (73% of efficiency vs. 58% for Zaksa), but the pace of their game was not that impressive as if they still had to adjust to the time difference and recover from their long journey to Omsk.
Both teams found it difficult to break away in the score (5:5, 9:9) until CUNEO was the first to get a margin of two points (12:10) with Antonov and Wijsmans finalizing a couple of much contested rallies. However, this situation did not last that long as Zaksa was very quick in fighting back and drew level once more at 13 all. By the second technical time-out, Bre Banca Lannutti CUNEO had moved up once more with Sokolov taking his side by the hand (16:14); that was just the beginning of a positive series for the Italians (18:14) who little by little were improving on the quality and consistency of their performance (22:16); even the addition of Mozdzonek could not help Zaksa prevent CUNEO from going up 2:1 in sets (25-20).
Things turned upside down in the early phases of set 4 where Zaksa stormed out to a 6:2 lead with CUNEO head coach Roberto Piazza asking for a time-out to possibly stop that positive streak for his opponents. Bre Banca Lannutti claimed the next couple of points but still trailed by three at the first mandatory stop. On the other hand, Zaksa played really strong (13:7) with their Brazilian outside hitter Luis Felipe Fonteles showing off the qualities of a real all-round player capable of combining solid skills in defence with tremendous power in attack as well as from the serving line. Still Bre Banca Lannutti CUNEO wasn’t keen to give in that early and scored three in a row to leave the door open and to force Castellani into a time-out (13:10). Sokolov left his mark on the next rally, Wijsmans intelligently attacked for the 13:12 and equality was almost there. The score was finally levelled at 14 by Sokolov and captain Wijsmans flipped the charts around a few seconds later. With a positive 9:1 series – from 7:13 down to 16:14 – CUNEO had literally changed the course of the set and could confidently look forward to resuming the game after the second mandatory stop. It was not yet time to celebrate as Zaksa powered back by sweeping the next four rallies – helped by Wijsmans who missed a couple of spikes – but the Belgian-born captain of CUNEO did soon compensate for that short black-out by acing for the 19 all. A very intense final rush followed with CUNEO moving up 22:21 on a spike by Oleg Antonov, Rouzier levelling the count for Zaksa, Ngapeth sending it off the court and KEDZIERZYN-KOZLE getting two opportunities to make it to the tie-break. Ngapeth could score the next point for CUNEO, but Fonteles was ready to answer the call of his captain and setter Zagumny to seal the 25-23 that prompted the second tie-break of the day.
Bre Banca Lannutti could regroup right by the time it counted the most opening the tie-break with a 5:1 and by this moment Zaksa head coach Daniel Castellani had already used both of his time-outs. CUNEO unleashed their full potential in every single fundamental switching sides of the court at 8:3, with their most valuable players – Wijsmans, Sokolov, Ngapeth and Grbic – displaying their class on their way to the final 15-10.
“I am very proud of my guys because they played a good game in the second and third sets but I also regret the opportunities we could not capitalize on in the first set. We suddenly lost focus and eventually also the set. We did serve well and played some good high balls, so that was the key to our success. Tomorrow we have a very difficult match with Lokomotiv and we need to perform our best to stand a chance there” Roberto Piazza said after the game.
“We can be proud of this win because we had difficult moments in this game; we played good in the second and third set, started the fourth set quite badly, came back but ultimately lost it, so we showed our character and motivation by regrouping in the tie-break. We need to reset our minds because this was just the first step and we certainly want to go for more now that we have made it to the final match” Wout Wijsmans added.
“Unfortunately we did not play as good as we had expected or as we did in the previous rounds. CUNEO played good, especially with their serve, and they deserve to be in the final. I wish them the best of luck for their match with Lokomotiv, we’ll try to claim at least bronze” concluded Zaksa team leader Pawel Zagumny.