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17/04/2016 17:34
Lube make up for semi-final disappointment to crown Final Four with bronze
2016 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League - Men

Krakow, Poland, April 17, 2016. After losing in three sets to arch-rivals TRENTINO Diatec in the semis, Italy’s Cucine Lube CIVITANOVA first dissipated the opportunity to claim a 2-0 lead before they came from behind to edge hosts Asseco Resovia RZESZOW 3-2 (25-20, 25-27, 22-25, 25-22, 15-10) in the classification match of the 2016 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League – Men contested on Sunday afternoon before an almost sell-out crowd at TAURON Arena in Krakow. This result accounts for Lube’s second medal in the CEV Volleyball Champions League after the Italian team had seized Europe’s most coveted crown in 2002. As for Resovia, the hosts played with a lot of courage and determination but could not pay back the great efforts made by the local organisers to deliver a truly memorable Volleyball party. Resovia’s players will be trying to make amends for this disappointment in the championship series of the Polish national league against Zaksa KEDZIERZYN-KOZLE that is due to start on April 21.

Though they certainly had wished their team would play for the gold medal on the second and last day of the Final Four weekend, the supporters of Resovia were not less passionate and raucous than they had been during Saturday’s semi-final with Zenit KAZAN. As for Cucine Lube, the Italians were also motivated to make amends for their straight loss to TRENTINO and to claim their first ever CL bronze medal – they had indeed previously lost two classification matches to Russia’s Dinamo MOSCOW and Iskra ODINTSOVO in 2007 and 2009, respectively.

CIVITANOVA started the match with Alessandro Fei replacing team captain Ivan Miljkovic in their line-up and the Italians looked a lot more determined than in their semi-final matchup with TRENTINO, this resulting in an 8-4 early lead in the opening set. Resovia trailed for most of the set as the young American setter of Lube, Micah Christenson, showed glimpses of his class to masterfully orchestrate the Italian team’s game (16-13). The fans of Resovia tried their best to provide some extra support to the home team and their efforts were paid back when RZESZOW closed in at 16-17; however, the audience’s hope of a comeback was short lived as Lube scored time and again to claim the first set on an ace by their Cuban-born star Osmany Juantorena (25-20).

Resovia were not caught by surprise in the early stages of the second set but nevertheless had to deal with a two-point deficit at the first technical time-out. The players in black and red shirts kept a cool head and scored three times in a row to flip the charts around before a neck-and-neck race continued for most of the set. The tension reached its climax by the score of 21-all, Russell Holmes blocked Juantorena to help Resovia edge ahead at 22-21 but the Italians showed nerves of steel to stop the march of the home team with two straight points. It was clearly the turning point of the match – a chance to impose their supremacy for Lube and an opportunity not to be missed for RZESZOW to stay alive in the quest for the bronze medal. CIVITANOVA did not capitalise on a first set ball at 24-23 and Resovia got one of their own just a few seconds later when leading 25-24. Fei cancelled this opportunity to level the match but Resovia’s captain Aleh Akhrem closed the next rally to claim a second one and this one was cashed on a superb block to re-ignite the home fans’ hopes of glory (27-25).

This exciting final rush surely provided the home team with an extra boost of confidence and as a result Resovia comfortably set the pace of the game in the early stages of the third set (5-3, 8-4). The match seemed to follow an opposite course than the semi-final with Zenit KAZAN – this time it was indeed Resovia’s turn to overcome a difficult start and to improve the level of their performance as the match progressed. However, Cucine Lube proved a hard nut to crack and closed in at 11-11 after stepping up their efforts, especially at blocking. The Italian team won a challenge to claim the lead for the first time at 13-12 but Resovia fought as much as they could for every ball and their efforts – as well as the enthusiasm of their fans – were eventually rewarded when Lube’s middle blocker Dragan Stankovic served into the net (25-22).

Though Cucine Lube seemed able to attempt a comeback in the fourth set where the Italians stormed to 8-5 and 10-8 leads, Resovia fought back with the help of their substitute setter Lukas Tichacek – a Champions League gold medal winner in 2007 with Germany’s VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN – and the hosts set their sights on the finish line after claiming a two-point lead shortly after the second technical time-out (17-15). CIVITANOVA closed in once more at 17-all before the Polish crowd got ready to start their party standing up on their feet when the scoreboard showed a 21-19 advantage for their heroes. It was not over yet for Lube scored five times in a row and eventually extended this exciting match to a tie-break following a superb attack by Stankovic (25-22).

Resovia trailed 1-4 in the fifth set and at this stage coach Andrzej Kowal replaced Drzyzga and Dawid Dryja with Tichacek and Dmytro Pashytskyy, respectively. The home team had almost erased their deficit at 4-5 before CIVITANOVA resumed their march to lead 8-4 at the side switch. Resovia could not find a way to make up for this early blow and ended up losing the tie-break 15-10 and with it the bronze medal match as well.


Cucine Lube CIVITANOVA middle blocker Dragan Stankovic: “I think we did very well in keeping a cool head in the most critical moments of the match. We fought to stay on court as much as we could especially in order to find back our best game, which is something we will need on Thursday when we play our third match in the semis of the national league with PERUGIA. I think we can be happy and proud of the way we fought, regardless of the result. Of course the victory and the bronze medal are a nice way to reward our efforts in today’s match.”

Resovia middle blocker Russell Holmes: “As far as the result goes we are not happy, but it was great to be part of this tournament. In matches like that, when you play five sets the difference is only a few points. They did a better job with keeping the pressure on us with their service and towards the end we weren’t really good in this element. Congratulations to Lube!”
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