On time, the convoy of the panthers released the ticket for the seventh consecutive final of the Italian Cup, the eighth in eleven seasons. Sunday at 18 he will try to sew the tricolor cockade on his shirts for the fifth time. It would be the fourth success in a row for Daniele Santarelli’s team, a result never achieved by any club in the 75 editions of the trophy.
The semifinal against Igor Novara did not disappoint expectations, under the eyes, among the many VIPs, of the blue coach Davide Mazzanti, Serena Ortolani, Julio Velasco, Lorenzo Bernardi and the president of Cev Aleksander Boricic. The sextet chosen by Santarelli is the expected one, already used on Tuesday against Cuneo, with Wolosz and Haak on the main diagonal, Lubian and Fahr in the centre, Cook and Plummer in the band, De Gennaro free. Lavarini also plays it safe and lines up Cambi, Karakurt, Danesi, Chirichella, Bosetti, Adams and Fersino.
Conegliano lets himself be surprised by a couple of lobs from Karakurt behind the wall by Fahr and Haak (1-3), then by Adams’ powerful serve which surprises Cook (2-5) and finally by a misunderstanding on a support (3- 7). The usual slow-motion start is followed by a good reaction with Plummer and with Lubian’s serving turn, up to the block by Fahr who scores 8-8. The panthers concede something on service, but keep the ball change regularly, reaching the break with Haak on 15-14. Danesi passes twice in the first half, then Cook’s block makes it 19-17. In the meantime, Gennari for Plummer and Squarcini for Fahr enter the second line, De Kruijf for Lubian. It is precisely the central players who give the final push, with the Dutchman scoring in the fast and first half and Squarcini imitating him for the decisive point.
Novara tries to change pace after the field change and finds a positive sequence with Danesi and Chirichella. Conegliano reacts by accelerating and changing the game a lot (6-3). Karakut is starting to warm up the arm for the Piedmontese, good at taking risks on the backline and taking advantage of the yellow-blue wall (10-9). The game drops a bit in quality with several errors on both sides and the score remains in balance. Haak misses an attack, but redeems himself immediately by slipping in two points that lead to 16-15. Igor reacts and takes the lead on 17-20 with four points from Karakurt. In an amen the panthers restore parity with Plummer and Haak. Santarelli changes the pair of power plants again and gets the maximum result, with aces from Squarcini and a block from De Kruijf.
Once the danger has passed and Novara’s requests to extend the match are rejected, the panthers have a drop in efficiency at the start of the third set, conceding three points with free mistakes in attack. At 6-6 the situation reinvigorates the Piedmontese, who permanently insert Carcaces in place of Adams. Danesi anticipates Conegliano’s block a couple of times (8-10), the panthers are less aggressive and more foul in all fundamentals. And so from 11-16 the gap grows up to 12-20, with Gray and Carraro making Haak and Wolosz catch their breath for a few exchanges, in view of the next set.
Santarelli leaves Fahr on the bench, negative on serve with four errors, and inserts Squarcini. The initial 3-1 signed by Haak and Lubian is followed by two mistakes by Cook that give oxygen to Novara and lead to 5-5. Two blocks by Squarcini and two attacks by Plummer bring Conegliano back ahead (11-9), then Karakurt comes back on and hits twice on serve and equalizes at 13. Errors also come from the Piedmont side with Carcaces and Karakurt herself, plus two blocks of the panthers who open the gap until 18-14. Adams is back for Novara, which however has more difficulty building, thanks to the more active wall of Conegliano. Plummer makes it 21-17, but then attacks outside, after blocking Karakurt, who completes the draw diagonally. The American redeems herself and then Haak signs the block of 23-21. The first half comes from Bonifacio and then a hands-off from Gennari is worth two match points. First, a challenge full of tension proves Novara right (invasion by De Kruijf), then Gennari herself, in her homeland of Emilia, gets everyone on board for the final.