Sylla and De Gennaro return: “I will have more alternatives, also because in the cup there are no limits to foreigners on the field”
Mirco Cavallin / CONEGLIANO
Putting aside the thoughts and anxieties for the Guinness Book of Records, with a record of consecutive victories that only they can continue to improve, the Panthers of Conegliano begin the long road that leads them to defend the title of European champions.
Tonight’s opponent has won the last four championships in Serbia and last year also the National Cup and Super Cup. He is currently in fourth place in the standings with 14 points (5 wins and 3 losses), 10 points behind the top, and has easily passed the first round of the Cup, reaching the semi-final that he will face next week against the Red Star. Overall, the team from Ub, a town about fifty kilometers southwest of the capital Belgrade, has already played 14 games and is unbeaten in the Champions League, a tournament they are playing for the first time. In the preliminary rounds he eliminated the Bosnians of Bimal Jedintsvo with a double 3-0 and, somewhat surprisingly, the Greeks of Olimpiacos Piraeus (3-2 and 3-0). The team, led by Marijana Boricic, formerly in charge of the Serbian youth national teams, is completely indigenous in its composition, having no foreigners among its ranks. The two main attack terminals are the Rankovic spiker and the opposite Pavlovic, which however do not reach 40% efficiency. Overall, Zok appears as the weakest team in group E, but surprises are always lurking, as shown by previous experiences in the Panthers’ Championships. The bad evenings against Vasas Budapest and Palmberg Schwerin must remain only a bad memory for Wolosz and teammates, awaiting confirmation of the game on Sunday.
Conegliano has a winning streak in the Champions League that has lasted exactly two years and five days, with 18 successes in a row. Three are missing to equal, for a change, the Vakifbank, which remained undefeated in Europe between 2012 and 2014.
«Now that the record is ours alone – says Daniele Santarelli – we will try to improve it. In the last few weeks we have worked very well in the gym and I think the team will express themselves even better. The group is strong and also the return of Sylla and De Gennaro will give me more alternatives, considering that in the Champions League there are no limits to foreigners on the pitch ». The weeks that await the Gialloblù are crucial in many respects, because before Christmas there will be three Champions League matches, in which the goal is to make full spoils in view of qualification. There are as many in the league, which will establish the grid for the Italian Cup at the turn of the New Year and there is, above all, the Club World Cup, with another title to defend and very tough opponents to face.
“There is still a long way to go,” admits the coach, who knows on the one hand that he cannot miss certain objectives, and on the other that he is at the helm of a formidable group. –