Head coach Roberto Piazza opted on Tuesday for a pretty unusual starting six including setter Nimir Abdelaziz, opposite Tsvetan Sokolov, wing-spikers Oleg Antonov and Earvin Ngapeth, middle-blockers Emanuel Kohut and Andrea Rossi, plus libero Andrea Marchisio. ACH Volley LJUBLJANA responded with setter Gregor Ropret, opposite Mory Sidibe, wing-spikers Alen Sket and Andrej Flajs, middle-blockers Borislav Petrovic and Milan Rasic, plus libero Ales Fabjan, after the departure of US American Jayson Jablonsky who has moved to Qatar.
Bre Banca Lannutti opened the game with a good pace going up 11:6 and then stretching their lead (16:9, 18:10), before sealing the final 25-16 via a block of Kohut on Mory Sidibe after Ngapeth was even substituted by youngster Andrea Galliani.
In the second set the teams opted for their initial starting six with CUNEO rapidly rushing to a 6:2 lead forcing Slovenian head coach Luka Slabe into an early time-out. Bre Banca Lannutti could nevertheless keep a margin of two points by the first technical time-out before LJUBLJANA drew level at 8 and eventually moved to the front some moments later (11:12). After trailing 14:16, the hosts could fight their way back, Sokolov leveled the count at 17 but Sket opened the gap again for ACH Volley (17:19). Again Sokolov restored the balance and the final rush fully belonged to Bre Banca Lannutti that could go for the provisional 2:0 (25-21).
After a good start by ACH Volley (1:3), the local heroes re-imposed their presence (7:5) in set 3 and could even enjoy a reassuring margin of six points by the time the second mandatory stop was called. Still the fate of the game was not yet determined with LJUBLJANA storming back to 18 all; Dore Della Lunga aced for the 20:18 in favor of CUNEO but ACH Volley responded well and after missing on two set balls, eventually cashed the third one to prolong the game to the fourth set (24-26).
After a close start (5:5), LJUBLJANA got to the front there (5:7, 6:9) before Serbian star Nikola Grbic joined the game for Abdelaziz and via two blocks the Italians got back the lead (11:10). That slim margin was maintained throughout the set and eventually widened with CUNEO cashing a 25-16 that meant also a ticket to the Playoffs 6 of Europe’s most elitist competition.
“I am very satisfied with the performance I have seen tonight even though we lost one set” said Roberto Piazza after the game. “Even when you lose, you’ve got something to learn. This evening I got to see a great reaction in the fourth set especially after Nikola Grbic joined the game. I got to see a very united and determined group whose only aim is to win”.
“I am not sad because we lost to a great team that performed better than we did last week and tonight too. We had come to Cuneo to win and believed in our chances until the end, but we know this is a very solid and tough team” singled out Luka Slabe, the mentor of ACH Volley.
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