VC WIESBADEN hoping to spring another surprise – this time in Novara!


Article Wed, Jan 31 2024

Germany’s sensation VC WIESBADEN will play the first semi-final of the women’s CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup in Piedmont, Italy, on February 1. With Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA, a real heavyweight awaits the only German representative in this competition. Meanwhile, the team travels to Italy without their head coach Benedikt Frank. The 43-year-old tore his patella tendon during a morning workout with the squad. Team physician Dr Alexander Mayer performed the surgery on Wednesday morning at the Atos Clinic in Wiesbaden – at the same time as the team boarded their bus to Italy. In Novara and for Saturday’s game in Suhl as well, experienced assistant coach Christian Sossenheimer and Daniel Ramirez Santana, second assistant and scout, will be at the helm of the group.

Will the players of VC WIESBADEN spring another surprise?

The second leg against Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA will take place on February 7 in the sports hall at the Platz der Deutschen Einheit (19:30 CET) in Wiesbaden. Meanwhile, Neptunes NANTES (France) and Nilüfer Belediye BURSA (Türkiye) contest the other semi-final.

“NOVARA is currently the third-best team in the Italian league and is stocked with experienced Italian and internationals in every position. In addition, with Vita Akimova, we are facing tremendous punching power. The bench is also excellently staffed. Every player wants to compete against such opponents. We can now show whether and how we can keep up. We need to be brave and push through our ideas. Unfortunately, without me. Nevertheless, the team is very well managed, both coaches are trained for this. I am rooting for them from my hospital bed and hope to be able to support the team again soon,” Frank says.  

VC WIESBADEN’s path in Europe
After benefitting from a bye in the first round, the first appearance in the CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup against Bevo Rekkenshop ROESELARE (Belgium) did not prove to be a major hurdle. Then came the big names! And the Germans also prevailed brilliantly against Galatasaray Daikin ISTANBUL (Türkiye) and PAOK THESSALONIKI (Greece), which was not expected. In some media, there was even talk of a ‘sensation’. Interestingly, PAOK’s Serbian head coach Darko Zakoč apologised to the fans after his team's latest disappointing performances. The experienced and well-known coach has since been dismissed.

NOVARA: a real heavyweight 
The club, founded in 1984 as Società A.G.I.L. Trecate, has been competing since 2013 as Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA after several name changes. At that time, after years in the lower leagues, the club was promoted back to Serie A1. Title sponsor Igor is a leader in the production of Gorgonzola DOP, the typical cheese of Novara.

The Italian club has an impressive history: they have already won the Champions League (2019 in Berlin's Max-Schmeling-Halle) as well as the CEV Cup twice and the CEV Challenge Cup once. In 2017 they became Italian champions and were runners-up the following season. In 2015, 2018 and 2019, the team won the Italian Cup. They currently sit in third place in the Serie A1 this season out of 14 teams and have only lost three of their 17 games this far.

Most recently, they won 3-1 against bottom-of-the-table TRENTINO Rosa. In the CEV Challenge Cup in January, NOVARA defeated the Romanian representative CSO VOLUNTARI 2005 3-1 and 3-0. Previously, they advanced against VBC Saviola CASALMAGGIORE (Italy), RANDABERG IL (Norway) and Olympiacos PIRAEUS (Greece).

The current squad
The team, which is peppered with international players, is coached by Lorenzo Bernardi. The 55-year-old was highly decorated as a player, made 306 appearances for Italy’s national team and has also been an assistant coach of the women’s national team since the beginning of the year.

The roster includes the following standout names: the outside attackers Caterina Bosetti (Italy; Best of the 2022 Nations League; Best of Serie A1 2021/2022), Anne Buijs (Netherlands; MVP at the WEVZA Cup 2023/2024) and Gréta Szakmáry (Hungary; Top scorer in the Challenge Cup 2020/2021, Hungary's Volleyball Player of the Year in 2017, before moving to SSC Palmberg SCHWERIN), opposite hitter Vita Akimova (Russia; Top scorer and MVP of the French Ligue 2022/2023), middle blockers Anna Danesi (Italy; Best of Serie A1 2022/2023) and Cristina Chirichella (Italy; Best of Serie A1 2021/2022) as well as libero Eleonora Fersino (Italy; best Receiver Serie A1 2022/2023).

The squad also includes German outside hitter Hanna Orthmann. The 25-year-old was at USC MÜNSTER until 2017 and then played in Italy and Türkiye. This season, she moved to Novara, but suffered a serious injury at the home EuroVolley in Düsseldorf back in August 2023 (cruciate ligament rupture). She won the CEV Challenge Cup with Saugella MONZA (Italy; today's name: Allianz Vero Volley MILANO) and the CEV Cup in 2021.

Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA are a tremendous challenge for the German outsiders

Novara’s arena
VC WIESBADEN will be hosted at the Pala Igor Gorgonzola, an arena with 3,240 seats. The Germans know twice as large dimensions from Istanbul and Thessaloniki; however, only a few spectators were scattered in both huge sports complexes, while the Germans made a powerful impression at home twice with a deafeningly loud and sold-out house (2,100 spectators each) – a backdrop that surprised both Turks and Greeks, who had previously been wondering at the ‘small hall’ of the German first-division club.

“Other countries set up their systems differently. It is exciting, but it is hard to calculate. We will only see during the game what opportunities arise. NOVARA has great and tall players, but we have proven in our previous games that we are not easy to play against. Galatasaray and PAOK were certainly surprised. For sure we need our very best performance to have a chance. Teams like NOVARA make few mistakes. If they tremble, we need to be there. We are really looking forward to this very special game!”

Izabella Rapacz
Opposite hitter of VC WIESBADEN