The Panthers are back there, at the top of the rankings, where they remained for three consecutive years between January 2019 and January 2022.
The victory over Chieri required a test of character, patience and quality on the part of Santarelli’s team. The Piedmontese, in a different formation compared to the previous outings, are growing, especially in the second and third set, but in the long run they suffer the weight of the greater technical rate of the hosts.
Conegliano starts with Wolosz, Haak, Gennari, Gray, De Kruijf, Lubian and De Gennaro. Chieri responds with Bosio, Grobelna, Cazaute, Rozanski, Mazzaro, Weitzel and Spirito. In both cases they are two new sextets that face each other immediately without sparing the blows. De Kruijf and De Gennaro push the panthers to the first advantage (5-1). The Piedmontese try to accelerate the shots, commit a couple of infractions and fail to mend the break. Haak and Lubian push hard to serve and trigger Gray and Gennari’s attacks (15-9). Grobelna’s first points arrive and Weitzel’s ace over Gennari, Lubian misses an apparently easy first half and we arrive at 19-14. The Gialloblù central starts immediately after driving a “nail” on the taraflex. The Panthers do not lower the pace and easily reach the maximum advantage on 23-16. Close the accounts Haak and Gray, very inspired in attack.
Prosecco Doc Imoco suffers, but does not show it too much, in reception (37% against 52% of the guests). Chieri reacts and shows the qualities that have brought her to the top of the standings. Cazaute and Weitzel create some headaches for the panthers, who respond on their own. Haak and Lubian sign a 4-0 run that is worth the extension up to 11-6. From then on Santarelli’s team continues to keep the pace high, especially with Haak and Gray, who record percentages of excellence in attack. The gap grows up to 22-14, then Chieri finds the winning combination, after a whirlwind of ineffective changes, with the entry of Villani. The partial is 1-7 for the guests, but we think De Kruijf, Gray and Lubian (his is the decisive wall) to shift the scales again.
Chieri makes it clear that she is not on holiday and that she deserves the top areas of the table, starting even more convinced in the third set. There is balance until 6-6, then Grobelna, Cazaute and a newfound Rozanski sign the extension until 9-14. The reaction is immediate and Conegliano gets to overtake sl 18-15 thanks to the block (Haak, Gennari and Lubian twice) and the precise attacks of Haak and Gray. It is a vehement reaction, which leaves no way out to the guests, in whose row the last to give up is Grobelna.
The Italian champions close in crescendo and prepare for the double trip to Piedmont, to Cuneo on Saturday and then to Novara next Wednesday.