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17/03/2021 21:51
Five-setter in Milan leaves Challenge Cup final wide open
CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup 2021 - Men

Luxembourg, March 17, 2021. Italy’s Allianz Powervolley Milano and Turkey’s Ziraat Bankasi Ankara engaged in a rollercoaster five-setter in the first leg of the CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup 2021 men’s final. The squad from Milan came back twice in the match to celebrate with the victory in the end, but will need to win again in Ankara next week to avoid complications.

Allianz Powervolley Milano (ITA) vs Ziraat Bankasi Ankara (TUR) 3-2 (22-25, 25-19, 18-25, 25-18, 15-9)

Ziraat’s Dutch striker Wouter ter Maat spearheaded his team’s offence in the first set. He scored as many as eight of his 10 spike attempts to steer the Turkish side through an otherwise well-balanced set. Ziraat stayed more focused in the money time to solidify their lead as his teammate and compatriot Maarten van Garderen hammered the winner for 25-22.

Allianz Powervolley stormed into the second set with a 6-0 run and never looked back. Taking advantage of the many unforced errors on the other side of the court, they maintained the solid advantage through the end of the set, which came at 25-19 on a successful spike by Slovenian star Tine Urnaut.

The battle in set three only went level through 8-8, after which Ziraat took control of the scoreboard, breaking away with three in a row. On the wings of another eight spikes by Ter Maat, the Turkish offence stepped up its efficiency as the gap opened wider and wider and the set finished at 25-18 Ziraat’s way.

It was the serving, and to some extent the blocking, that made the difference in the fourth set and tilted it the home side’s way. To help the team from Milan stay in the lead through the most part of the set, Riccardo Sbertoli scored twice directly from the serving line, while his Slovenian teammate Jan Kozamernik aced three times, including that off-the-net drop that closed it off at 25-18.

Allianz Powervolley were completely in charge of the tie-breaker. By the side-switch, they had already opened up a four-point gap. They continued to extend it until a perfectly placed serve by Canadian outside Stephen Maar registered the 15-9 winner.

Wouter ter Maat topped the scorers chart of the match on an impressive total of 27 points. His teammate Martin Atanasov added another 17. Jean Patry led the scorers on the winning side with 15 points to his name, while Jan Kozamernik excelled with five aces.

Stephen Maar, player of Allianz Powervolley Milano:
“In the first set, their serve worked very well, whilst you could see that we still had room to improve our game. Obviously, we are a bit tired because we are playing every three days but the important thing is that we are all ready to take to the court, so that we can help the starting players if they need to recover. This perhaps made the difference. We did work very well in block and defence too. We are very happy about this win, but tomorrow we will start training again, focussing on the return match in Turkey as well as on the national league playoffs.”

Giampaolo Medei, head coach of Ziraat Bankasi: “In my opinion, we played a good match, there is a bit of regret because in the fourth set they were good at changing a couple of situations, and certainly Maar made the difference when he joined the action at that stage. On the other hand, we were not determined enough to close the match in our favour. We played a close game and I would take this as a positive from this match. The jump serve did not work so much, so this is certainly a negative. I would say that we are 50% satisfied with our performance because in the last part of the match, our level went obviously down. However, this was only the first game, there will be a second one, and we will see each other again knowing that we can play another close match and win the cup.”

The return game is scheduled on March 24, at 18:00 local time at the Baskent sports hall in Ankara.

For more details, stats and photos, visit the CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup 2021 - Men competition page.

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