Maritza has what it takes to overcome Yamamay in CEV Cup re-match

The spot in the next round is still up for grabs! This is the general attitude prevailing in Europe’s oldest living city before local favorites Maritza Plovdiv face Unet Yamamay Busto Arsizio in a decisive re-match for the 2017 CEV Volleyball Cup - Women. Despite losing the first-leg game in Italy in four sets, the Bulgarian champions are confident that they possess what is needed to change the course of this duel and bring it home in the golden set.

The excitement in Bulgaria’s second largest city before the crucial clash at the Kolodruma hall on Wednesday evening seems to be as huge as it was around Maritza’s two Champions League games a few weeks ago.

Representatives of the club and the team were once again invited to Town Hall for a joint press conference, where Deputy Mayor Georgi Tityukov called on his fellow Plovdivers to fill up the stands again and support the Yellow-and-Blues. “This is not just to support Maritza. This is to support our city’s sports in general. Personally, I intend to attend regardless of the weather,” he said referring to the freezing spell that has taken over the southern European country in recent weeks.

The team of Unet Yamamay has been more active competitively since the day of the first match at the Palayamamay. Coach Marco Mencarelli’s players have had two games in Italy’s Serie A1, winning away at Liu Jo Nordmeccanica Modena and losing at home to Sudtirol Bolzano, as well as two matches at an international memorial tournament in Busto Arsizio, losing both to Metalleghe Montichiari and Switzerland’s Volero Zurich.

With Bulgaria’s National Volleyball League still on winter break, Maritza had to resort to a couple of friendly matches in neighboring Romania. Coach Ivan Petkov’s squad managed to win against Dinamo Bucharest, but then lost to CSM Bucuresti Bucharest.

The Bulgarian team has no problems with injuries or other health issues, so Ivan Petkov has the full range of players available to rely on. “Yes, our team has the necessary strengths and qualities to overcome Yamamay,” the coach said at the press conference. “This match is obviously very important to us and we have serious ambitions to win it. Our opponents are a very strong team and defeated us in the first match, but to a great extent this was also due to the many individual mistakes we made.”

The Italian team arrived in Plovdiv on Tuesday evening with a squad of 13 players. The experienced middle blocker Federica Stufi is not among them. She sustained an injury during last week’s match with Metalleghe and will be away from the courts for a couple of weeks. Stufi has been replaced by 17-year-old Beatrice Badini. The good news from Yamamay’s camp comes with the recovery of the other main middle blocker, captain Giulia Pisani, who missed the first game against Maritza because of an injury.

“The problem with these injuries is that in the last two months we had to change the starting team a lot and we have not been able to practice continuously with the same main squad,” coach Mencarelli saidOf course, Maritza has its chances, because it is a young, but very good team. They pushed hard in some parts of the game and created difficulties for us during the first match. But we have been finding our good rhythm during the last week and we are here to win, because it is important for us to advance in the CEV Cup.”

The players of Maritza are also relying on the home-court advantage, hoping to have their cheering fans by their side. “The attendance and the support from the stands are very important to us,” said captain Radosveta Teneva. “The atmosphere that the spectators created at our previous European Cups game, against Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul, was fantastic and we hope to experience this again. I think it will be an interesting match for everyone watching and, as far as we are concerned, we will go out there to take our revenge.”

Tonight’s game between Maritza Plovdiv and Unet Yamamay Busto Arsizio will start at 18:30 local time at the Kolodruma competition hall. It will be nationally televised on BNT 2 with an international live stream available on LAOLA1.tv.

Photo: Gabriele Alemani, volleybusto.com