There was no alternative to victory but there is victory and victory and the 3-0 with which Lube crushed Verona in game 3 of the quarterfinal playoffs could even have changed the outcome of the series. The Italian champions risked leaving the scene early (they would have played matches for the Challenge Cup, which were very uninspiring) without having won a post-season match, as well as a somewhat dishonorable abdication. Instead, Blengini’s team not only survived and extended the series, but may have found the technical and psychological keys to win it. Net of a Verona that perhaps had the little arm in front of a historic match (never reached the semifinal), the red and white played with pride, mental strength but also at high levels of technical execution. The red and white fans now dream of repeating the comeback-feat of a year ago, in the semifinal, against Trento.
Of course it can be done because Lube hadn’t been inferior even in game 1 (lost to the advantage in each set) or 2 (tie-break), but first we have to win on Saturday in Verona. Someone said it was a proud response to the words of patron Giulianelli on the eve of an interview in which, in addition to putting the whole team under scrutiny (as he had already done weeks earlier on the Carlino), he spoke of a lost year and only confirmed De Cecco. Balaso and Anzani for next season.
Certainly Giulianelli must have goaded the athletes, but in our opinion something else made the difference, for example the formula adopted by Blengini (already partially tested in race 2). The coach put Zaytsev to receive in a 4-man line, a move that protected Nikolov so much that the Bulgarian barely received a ball (16 for the opposite). The “tsar” sacrificed himself by carrying out the task well, let alone Balaso and so De Cecco got better balls to play the 67% attack. Then there was Nikolov… At only 19 years of age he showed off a performance that will not be forgotten: 25 points, 4 aces 2125 from the field without hitting blocks or making mistakes. Incredible. His burst of points kept Verona always behind without the possibility of a break. Stoytchev’s team confirmed his offensive ability (blocking the hammers, due to leaps or tonnage, is almost impossible) but also the gaps in reception, especially if he fights in the Keita area or in the conflict between him and the libero Gaggini. And after this knockout he could change a little bit mentally. Verona has very young hammers, talented but potentially discontinuous and not very ready for certain challenges, plus, around them, teammates who are not so used to the playoffs, so they could pay the price of the matches that count. After all, the inexperience factor cannot be a handicap only for red and white.