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27/02/2013 23:32
Evergreen Fei and Zlatanov power Copra Elior to first semifinal win
2013 CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup - Men

Piacenza, Italy, February 27, 2013. Copra Elior PIACENZA edged on Wednesday Dukla LIBEREC in straight sets (25-14, 26-24, and 25-16) to claim the first round of the semis in the 2013 CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup – Men. The Czechs were sidelined by the absence of their setter and this evidently impacted on the quality of their offensive play. PIACENZA had some problems only in the early phases of the second set but eventually needed only 70 minutes to bring it home. PIACENZA stood out in blocking registering 19 in the end (vs. only 8 for the Czechs) with US American Maxwell Holt pacing the comeback of the home guys in the second set. The return game is scheduled for Saturday, March 2, at 6 pm in the Czech Republic.
Alessandro Fei eventually top scored for PIACENZA with 16 points with Hristo Zlatanov and Cuban Robertlandy Simon also finishing the game in double digits with 13 and 12 respectively. On the other side of the net Jan Hadrava chartered 12 points including 4 aces.

PIACENZA head coach Luca Monti opted for his usual starting six with Luciano De Cecco (setter), Fei (opposite), middle blockers Simon and Holt, wing spikers Zlatanov and Samuele Papi plus libero Davide Marra. With Pavel Reznicek being injured, Dukla LIBEREC responded with second setter Matyas Demar, opposite Hadrava, outside hitters Tomas Hysky and Ales Spravka, middle blockers Lubomir Stanek and Adam Kaminski, plus libero Vaclav Kopacek.
Copra Elior immediately set the pace of the game (4:3, 7:6) gradually widening the gap with the contribution of Fei and the solid blocks by Zlatanov (11:7, 14:8). PIACENZA did not slow the pace down and excellent serving provided by Holt moved the count up to 21:8 with team captain Hristo Zlatanov eventually finishing it off at 25-14.

Dukla LIBEREC got to the front for the first time in the early phases of the second set (6:9) so that PIACENZA mentor Luca Monti decided to substitute Papi with Gabriele Maruotti. PIACENZA could fight their way back drawing level at 10 but a few moments later Hadrava could shake the Italian defense line with a couple of aces (13:17). Maruotti took his side by the hand trying to close that gap before Holt almost tied the score with an ace (22:23). A very close final rush followed with two blocks killed by Cuban star Robertlandy Simon eventually cashing the final 26-24 for the home side.  

In set 3 PIACENZA did not show any mercy and stormed out to a 7:3 and 12:6 lead; by the score of 15:8, head coach Luca Monti felt he could opt for his second lines, so Luca Tencati and Slovak Frantisek Ogurcak joined the game replacing Simon and Zlatanov respectively. With their second setter Antonio Corvetta on court, PIACENZA did not lose quality and consistency and could easily wrap it up at 25-16 for a much desired home win in straight sets.

“The first set was too easy” Luca Monti says. “We somehow fell asleep but were good enough in the second set to fight our way back into the game especially on good serving by Holt. The return game in the Czech Republic will be a totally different story; most probably they will be able to count on their starting setter and we’ll be surrounded by a hot ambiance, but anyway we want to claim a second win to make it to the final”.

“We felt we had found our way into the game but after a good start we made too many mistakes” Czech mentor Michal Nekola stresses. “In the second set we even moved to the front and could keep control of the operations until the very end, but missed the most important points where our opponents served extremely well. In set 3 there was no way to stop PIACENZA, as they really played with great consistency while the quality of our game dropped down quite dramatically”.  

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the match

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