An exciting contest that gave an evening of great volleyball at the Pala AGSM AIM for the quarterfinals of Del Monte Coppa Italia. The result, however, did not reward WithU Verona, the protagonist of a test saw them fight for every ball, but which was not enough to access the Final Four of the tournaments, conquered by Gas Sales Bluenergy Piacenza. After a somewhat subdued first set, Stoytchev’s team unleashed a great reaction, taking the match to the tie-break, where they conceded to their opponents. Top level performance for Sapozhkov, who scored 28 points, 4 of which were blocked. Mozic also did well, closing at 21. The MVP of the match was Simon. The Gialloblù will return to the field on 8 January, again within the friendly walls, for the third return leg of the SuperLega against leaders Perugia.
In the starting sextet, coach Stoytchev confirms the diagonal formed by Spirito on the dribble and Sapozhkov in the opposite role. In the band space for Mozic and Keita, while in the center there is the Cortesia-Grozdanov couple, with Gaggini as free. The challenge opens with a first half by Simon, who hurts even from nine meters. Verona responds with Keita, returning to his heels (2-3). The guests remain in front and with a new winning attack from the Cuban centre-back they extend to +3. The Scala players try to make up for it, but a good series in Brizard’s service sends the Emilian troop up 5-12. Mozic plays well with the block, finding the 8-15 point. The hosts close the gap with a monster block by Keita, then it’s the Slovenian again who raises his voice, placing the ball to make it 12-17. Piacenza breaks again, Sapozhkov blocks Recine against the block, but the Piacenza players close the first set on 19-25.
Back on the field, coach Bernardi’s team puts the block forward again, but the yellow-blues’ reaction is immediate. Mozic starts the pass, then Cortesia takes care of signing the break, with a perfect first half and then with a block that leaves no way out for the opposing defense (6-3). The guests shorten the distances, signing the counter-overtake with Brizard’s ace (10-12), but it is a continuous pursuit. Sapozhkov blocks Basic, then Mozic unleashes all his power from the second row (13-11). The match is balanced, with the two formations chasing each other. The red and white extend to 17-19, but Mozic finds parity again. The race is thrilling. Mozic is still decisive with a pipe, clocking in at 25-24. Romanò keeps his hopes alive, but Verona pushes hard in attack. The dispute does not leave the balance rails and it is necessary to reach 32-31 to see the locals even the score.
At the start of the third fraction, the two teams continue to battle each other right from the opening bars. Then Sapozhkov signs the break (8-6), before Moscow prints a big block. Piacenza is a few lengths down, trying to shorten with Simon (10-8). The Emilians score a draw thanks to Caneschi’s block (12-12). Sapozhkov hit hard from place 2, finding two points of vital importance. The Russian eludes the opponent’s block and finds the 18 to 16. Romanò fields the ball from nine meters for overtaking (19-20). Piacenza takes off in the final set, winning it 25 to 22.
Coach Stoytchev shuffles the cards, inserting Raphael in the control room and putting back Cortesia (in place of Grozdanov). Caneschi misses the first serve, Mozic attacks well, but Gas Sales makes up for it, bringing the score back to equal (2-2). Verona puts its face forward again, then an insidious joke by the Scaliger captain leads to the winning block in Moscow (8-6). The central then closes a crazy exchange, signing the +3 (10-7). The arena is even more exalted after Mozic’s lob and two blocks in a row, which bring Verona up 13-7. The Gialloblù take off thanks to Mozic (17-10). The hosts maintain an excellent advantage, increased by Cortesia from nine meters (22-14). Piacenza shortens the distance (23-19) and tries to reverse the trend. WithU holds up the impact and with Sapozhkov takes the set home. Everything is decided at the tie-break.
The final partial begins with Piacenza ahead. Keita finds the -1 with a winning long line, before exploding his power in his serve (2-2). The guests respond present and with a diagonal from Romanò they go up 4-6. Mozic blocks the opposite blue, but the Emilians keep a two-point lead until the field change (6-8). Piacenza increases the advantage, which becomes consistent, not allowing the Gialloblù to get back into the game. Simon and his companions close on 8-15 and arrive at the Final Four.
Coach Stoytchev’s statements at the end of the match: “I’m sorry for the result, even if the whole team performed well. We started subdued in the first set, we made a few too many mistakes and we weren’t able to impose our game. Then in the following sets, we came back on the court with a different rhythm, putting them in difficulty. In certain situations, we weren’t perfect, they took advantage of the decisive moments. Now another important commitment awaits us, which we will have to face with the winning mentality we are building”.