Taking place in the midst of the regular season, the Italian Cup is a prestigious competition that brings four of the best teams in the SuperLega to the city of Bari for a single elimination tournament. And the teams aren’t there for just bragging rights either; the winner gains a place in the CEV Champion’s League for the 2018-19 rendition. These four teams earned the right to play in Bari by winning their early-round matchups that took place just before the regular season started in October. Here is a quick rundown of the teams that will be participating.
Trentino comes into this tournament as an outsider looking in at the elite teams of the league. They only have 36 points so far this regular season, 9 points behind third place Modena. Their record against the other teams in this tournament is 1-3, including a 20 point beatdown against Lube Civitanova that happened only a couple of weeks ago. The key stat for Trentino will be their kill efficiency, as they are the only team in the tournament to score on less than half of their hits. PLayers that will have to step up to secure a Trentino victory are Italian national team starters Filippo Lanza and Luca Vettori. Both of them have been playing well lately after slow starts, and they will need to maintain better consistency in order for Trentino to have a chance.
Modena is the biggest wild card in this Italian Cup. Despite being comfortably in third place with 45 points, their season has been plagued by disagreements between coaches, management, and players, punctuated by a dispute between Earvin Ngapeth and coach Radostin Stoytchev resulting in missed games by both Ngapeth brothers. On the other hand, they handed a decisive 3-0 victory to Lube Civitanova last weekend without star opposite Giulio Sabbi. The key for Modena will be the health of their players. Earvin Ngapeth and Giulio Sabbi have both dealt with injury concerns recently, and although Andrea Argenta has performed admirably as a replacement, Modena would like to have their top players available to them.
The reigning champions of both the Italian Cup and the SuperLega regular season, Lube will have a Tsvetan Sokolov-sized target on their back for the tournament. Lube looked infallible this season, placing second in the World Club Championships and crushing their competition in the SuperLega with a +210 point differential. They have also posted unbelievable efficiency numbers, passing at 35% and hitting at 55%, both by far the best marks in the league. However, their losses have been bizarre. Two to Latina and Grotte, teams that are comfortably in the bottom of the rankings, and one to Modena without two of their top players. Lube will rely on American setter Micah Christenson and French libero Jenia Grebennikov to make sure that they don’t fall to last weekend’s level of play.
Sir Safety Conad Perugia
Perugia is the only team taking part in the tournament who has never won the Italian Cup. This year could be their best opportunity yet. They are in first place in the regular season standings with 17 wins and 2 losses. They have the tightest defense in the league, scoring on a block 2.63 times per set while holding their opponents to a meager 44.7% kill efficiency. And if you thought Lube’s point differential was impressive, Perugia has outscored opponents by an incredible +232 points this regular season. Ivan Zaytzev will have to ignore speculation that the team is trying to replace him, and Aleksander Atanasijevic can’t afford an off game, but when everything is clicking Perugia is probably the best team in the competition. An Italian Cup win would be a long time coming for a fanbase that is both huge and passionate about Perugia.
Azimut Modena will play Lube Civitanova at 3:30 pm CET, 9:30 am EST, 6:30 am PST on January 27th.
Diatec Trentino will play Sir Safety Conad Perugia at 6 pm CET, 12 am EST, 9 am PST on January 27th.
The winners of each match will play at 5:30 pm CET, 11:30 am EST, 8:30 am PST on January 28th.