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Lube players target golden upgrade

Cucine Lube’s captain Osmany Juantorena is ready for his seventh Club World Championship medal (Photo: lubevolley.it)
Lausanne, Switzerland, November 18, 2019 – After their silver medals in both 2017 and 2018, it is only natural that the players of Italy’s Cucine Lube Civitanova are now aiming at a gold medal finish at the upcoming men’s 2019 FIVB Club World Championship set to take place in Betim, Brazil from December 3 through 8.

“We are glad to participate again, for the third time in a row, in an important competition such as the Club World Championship,” 34-year-old outside spiker and captain Osmany Juantorena told fivb.com. “In the last two editions we won the silver medals, so our target now is to reach the gold.”

The team of Lube with the 2018 Club World Championship silver medals

Juantorena was on Lube’s squad at both previous appearances and in 2017 he was even named Most Valuable Player of the tournament. Previously, the Cuban-born athlete claimed as many as four Club World Championship titles with another Italian team, Trentino Volley, and on three of those occasions, he was also honoured as the MVP. In 2019, he received the same individual recognition in Europe’s CEV Champions League, when his team claimed the continental title to qualify for the next edition of the Club World Championship.

“It will be hard because we will face very strong teams that have the same goal as we do,” the 2016 Olympic silver medallist with the Italian national team added. “We will try to play our best volleyball and we will see our result at the end of the tournament...”

Juantorena is one of nine Lube players who were on the 2018 silver medal squad and one of ten players who claimed the continental title in this year’s Champions League and who have stayed on with the club and are set to compete at Betim 2019.

The names of two more Cuban-born stars, 32-year-old middle blocker Robertlandy Simon and 31-year-old outside spiker Yoandy Leal, stand out. Simon has three more Club World Championship medals with his previous teams – 2016 gold and 2017 bronze with Brazil’s Sada Cruzeiro Volei Belo Horizonte and 2014 silver with Qatar’s Al-Rayyan – and has been named Dream Team middle blocker three times, including in the last two editions of the competition. In addition to his 2018 silver with Lube, Leal has five Club World Championship medals with Sada Cruzeiro – three gold, one silver and one bronze – and four individual awards, including MVP in 2015. This year, he also claimed the FIVB Volleyball World Cup with the national team of Brazil.

World-class setter Bruno Rezende is another Brazilian who will play with the Lube jersey in Betim. The 33-year-old playmaker is a 2016 Olympic champion, a 2010 world champion and a multiple gold medallist from many other major international competitions, but he has yet to win his first Club World Championship crown. Bruno’s talented back-up, 28-year-old Belgian national team setter Stijn D'Hulst, is another returning foreigner in Lube’s squad.

A 2014 world champion with Poland, 25-year-old middle blocker Mateusz Bienek, 28-year-old Iranian standout opposite Amir Ghafour and the big star of tiny Luxembourg, 23-year-old opposite Kamil Rychlicki, are the incoming foreigners, who face the challenging task of filling the void left by the departure of top-level athletes like Tsvetan Sokolov and Dragan Stankovic.

Italian libero Andrea Marchisio is one of only two remaining players (the other being Juantorena), who were on both of Lube’s silver-winning squads. Outside hitter Jiri Kovar contributed to the second place at the 2017 Club World Championship, but missed the 2018 edition. The other returning Lube players are Italian internationals Jacopo Massari, Enrico Diamantini and Fabio Balaso.

Fabio Balaso and Osmany Juantorena celebrate a point during the 2018 Club World Championship final

“One year ago in Poland we lost the final of the 2018 edition. This time in Brazil we will do our best to reach the first place,” said talented 24-year-old libero Balaso. “It will be a long and hard tournament, so it is important to keep our concentration at the highest level possible in every single rally of each game, from the first to the last ball played. We are ready to face this new challenge.”

Another Italian international, 27-year-old middle blocker Simone Anzani, is the most experienced among the new domestic additions. The others are young hopefuls Paolo Di Silvestre, Francesco D'Amico, Azaria Gonzi and Gianluca Dal Corso.

Lube are hoping to add a Club World Championship crown to their impressive record of two Champions League gold medals, three CEV Cup and one CEV Challenge Cup trophies, five Italian championship titles, five national cups and four national super cups. The team coached by Ferdinando De Giorgi are still unbeaten since the start of the new season in the Italian Superlega. They lead the current standings on a perfect record of 21 points from seven games played and have three more domestic encounters on their schedule before they head to Brazil for the 2019 Club World Championship.

At Betim 2019, Lube will face Asian Club Championship bronze medallists Al-Rayyan of Qatar on December 3, South American club champions Sada Cruzeiro of Brazil on December 4 and Champions League runners-up Zenit Kazan of Russia on December 5. After a single round robin is complete, the two semifinals on December 7 will be played between the first-placed and the fourth-placed teams and between the second-placed and the third-placed teams. The medal matches are scheduled on December 8.

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