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20/03/2013 22:00
PIACENZA claims first round of Challenge Cup final with Ural UFA
2013 CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup - Men

Ufa, Russia, March 20, 2013. Though they had not played any matches for the past ten days, on Wednesday the players of Copra Elior PIACENZA needed only 90 minutes to edge the hosts of Ural UFA in the first final match of the 2013 CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup – Men. The team captained by Hristo Zlatanov cruised past in straight sets (25-12, 25-22, and 32-30) to get the right edge for the return match that is coming up this Sunday, March 24, in Italy.
Copra Elior was paced – along the way to this away victory – by Alessandro Fei (19 points) and Zlatanov, who registered 16, including three blocks. US American Maxwell Holt added 7 points to the count of PIACENZA, with three aces and two blocks, while Argentinean setter Luciano De Cecco marshaled with confidence and mastery his side. Libero Davide Marra did also support the good performance delivered by the guests with an outstanding 76% of efficiency in reception. On the other side of the net only Brazilian Leandro Vissotto and Pavel Abramov finished the game in double digits with 12 and 10 points respectively. PIACENZA did best their Russian opponents in all fundamentals, i.e. aces (8 vs. 2), blocks (9 vs. 3), as well as attack and reception (with 53 and 62% of efficiency respectively vs. 44 and 48% for Ural UFA).  

The home side caught a disastrous start trailing 0:6 in the opening set; PIACENZA did literally bomb the Russian defense line from the serving area moving up 8:1 at the first technical time-out and even though Ural UFA head coach Angiolino Frigoni substituted setter Miguel Angel Falasca and Vissotto, that did not change much as Copra Elior ran away (12:5, 14:7, and 20:10). Copra did show a very solid block and closed the set at 25-12 with Holt.

The early phases of the second set were much more balanced (2:2) but Samuele Papi contributed a first break for PIACENZA acing for the 11:8 in favor of the guests from Italy. With Fei, Zlatanov and Holt on fire Copra Elior moved up by six points as the second technical time-out was called and though Vissotto and Abramov attempted a possible comeback for Ural (12:17), still De Cecco and Zlatanov did not let it go (13:20). Vissotto lacked quality and consistency in the final rush as he alternated good actions and easy mistakes, with PIACENZA eventually going up 2:0 in sets (25-22).  

Ural UFA got finally back their best play in set 3 going up 3:1 and 8:6 as Copra Elior struggled, for the first time since the start of the game, to display its usual quality in reception. Cuban middle blocker Robertlandy Simon was no longer that effective and therefore Copra Elior opted for Luca Tencati to start clawing back (13:12, 18:17 for Ural). The guests from Italy did eventually draw level at 22 all thereby forcing Frigoni into a time-out. A mistake by Vissotto contributed a first match ball for PIACENZA (23:24), Copra Elior missed out on another couple of opportunities to finish it off and Abramov leveled the count once more at 29 all for UFA. A block by Tencati brought Copra Elior to the front once more but it was the almost 40-year old Samuele Papi who sealed the game scoring the last couple of points for the final 32-30 and a precious 3:0 away win.

“We started out very aggressive and I did really like the way we played in blocking and defense. The second set did develop similarly to the first though there we made some more mistakes as Vissotto was pressuring us from the serving line. In the third set we made some changes and I had to replace Simon as he did not look at ease anymore, especially in blocking” Copra Elio mentor Luca Monti says. “It was a great match and we played with the right focus and determination. Still I expect an even tougher match on Sunday, especially since we will have to cope with even more pressure”.  

Angiolino Frigoni, head coach of the Ural UFA: “PIACENZA played their best game in the season, while we had our worst. Without underestimating our opponents, I would like to say that the start of the game did set the tone for what was going to come as they literally bombed us with their serves”. Team captain Alexey Kazakov added: “We were punished. Ural was put on its place. Everybody in the Italian team played really well”.

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the match

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