Upsets averted in Italy semifinals


Tsvetan Sokolov atttacks against Azimut Modena as he leads Cucine Lube Civitanova to victory in the first leg of the Italian League semifinals.

Lausanne, Switzerland, March 19, 2017 - Cucine Lube Civitanova, who had finished the Regular Season at the top of the table, narrowly survived five sets 3-2 (25-22, 22-25, 20-25m 25-19, 15-11) against defending champions Azimut Modena as the Italian men's UnipolSai A1 League semifinals got underway on Sunday.

And Diatec Trentino managed to pick up after a disastrous first set to defeat Sir Safety Conad Perugia 3-1 (16-25, 25-22, 26-24, 25-22) also keeping their home advantage intact.

Bulgaria's Tsvetan Sokolov was the leading force of Lube in the very balanced match, scoring 17 points, with Osmany Juantorena contributing another 12. In less evenly-distributed scoring for Modena, Earvin Ngapeth of France logged 31 points (including 3 aces and 3 blocks) with a 60% (25/42) attacking efficiency - but he seemed all alone with Max Holt of USA and Luca Vettori scoring only 12 each and the whole team gifting their opponents an incredible 42 points on unforced errors (to 35).

At the Palatrento Perugia took Trentino by surprise in the first set, but speareaded by Filippo Lanza (15 points), Simon Van de Voorde of Belgium (13) and Tine Urnaut of Slovenia (11) the 2016 FIVB Club World Championship bronze medallists pulled together to take the win. Ivan Zaytsev with 16 points for Perugia was top scorer of the game, but his team lacked precision in reception.

The second legs in the best-of-five semifinals are next weekend.

Sada Cruzeiro take first step in Brazil quarterfinals
Defending champions Sada Cruzeiro destroyed Lebes Gedore Caonas 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-17) at home in Contagem's Riachao with Yoandy Leal scoring 14 points and collecting the MVP of the game award. The reigning world and South American champions were lethal in attack, scoring 42 kills in 68 swings for 62%.

Funivc Taubate, who had just managed to cling to second place on the last day of the Regular Season bounced back with a 3-0 (27-25, 25-23, 25-18) win at Juiz de Fora, with Wallace Souza scoring 19 points to pick up the MVP award and Otavio Pinto adding another 18.

Sesi Sao Paulo, meanwhile, struggled at home at Vila Leopoldina against Minas Tenis Clube of Belo Horizonte, but rallied from two sets down to turn the game around 3-2 (20-25, 23-25, 25-23, 25-23, 18-16) and retain home advantage in the series.

Theo Lopes was best scorer of Sesi Sao Paulo with 18 points and Douglas Souza was voted MVP of the game as the home side took advantage of the 43 unforced errors handed to them by Minas.

Brasil Kirin wrapped up the first legs of the quarterfinals Sunday afternoon with the second away win of the round, after rallying from behind in the fourth to avoid a tie-break as they beat Montes Claros at the Tancredo Neves 3-1 (25-23, 25-27, 27-25, 25-23).

Zenit Kazan unbeatable in Russia
With several reserves coming on especially in the third set, Zenit Kazan, who have already secured first place in the final standings, remain undefeated in the Russian Superleague after obliterating Ural Ufa 3-0 (25-9, 25-17, 25-20) at home in the Tatarstan capital. Usual suspects Wilfredo Leon with 19 and Maxim Mikhailov with 15 brought in the points.

It was Zenit's 20th straight win head-to-head over Ufa in the last decade.

Pavel Kruglov scored 25 points as Dinamo Moscow defeated Kuzbass Kemerovo 3-1 (25-20, 25-23, 31-33, 35-21) to retain a slight edge in the race for second place.

Two rounds remain in the Regular Season, ahead of the Playoffs which begin on 20 April.

ZAKSA Kedzierzyn-Kozle steady at the top
ZAKSA Kedzeirzyn-Kozle retained an eight-point lead at the top of the table in the Polish PlusLiga after a 3-1 (28-30, 25-18, 25-23, 27-25) home win over MKS Bedzin. Led by MVP Dawid Konarski who scored 26 points the winners outplayed Bedzin on the net.

In second place Asseco Resovia Rzeszow had previously defeated Effector Kielce 3-1 (25-17,25-14, 20-25, 25-15) with Germany's Jochen Schoeps top-scoring on 19 points to earn the MVP award.

The winner of the 2016-17 PlusLiga advances to the 2017 FIVB Club World Champions, 11-17 December in Poland. They join Asian champions Sarmayeh Bank Tehran, South American champions Sada Cruzeiro Contagem and the winners of the European Champions League (29-30 April in Rome). Two more tickets will go to the league winners of the two highest-ranked countries in the FIVB World Rankings and a further two to wild cards.

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