Stunning results across the world as domestic Playoffs heat up
Meanwhile, Volei Nestle Osasco advance to the Superleague final after scoring two more wins over Dentil Praia Clube Uberlandia for a sweep of their semifinal series.
Twenty-nine-year-old Hooker, a silver medallist at the London 2012 Olympic Games who moved to Brazil this year after a couple of seasons in Asia, was twice voted MVP as she led Minas to 3-1 (25-22, 25-21, 21-25, 25-19) and 3-2 (25-21, 13-25, 21-25, 25-23, 15-8) wins, both in Rio. Hooker was top scorer in both matches, with 21 and 20 points respectively.
Minas now lead the best-of-five series 2-1 and could qualify to their first final in 13 years as early as next Tuesday, when they host Rio in Belo Horizonte. If the series goes all the way, the deciding match will be played in Rio on Friday 14 April.
It's been an easier week for Osasco, who beat Praia Clube 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 25-22) on the road and followed up with a 3-1 (25-18, 23-25, 26-24, 25-11) at home before 4,000 fans in the Jose Liberatti.
London 2012 Olympic champions setter Dani Lins returned to guide Osasco as MVP of the first game as Tandara Caixeta, also a London 2012 gold medallist, emerged top scorer with 21 points. Twenty-eight-year-old Tanadara herself was voted MVP a couple of days later, when she top-scored again with 27 points.
Both Rio (as continental champions) and Osasco (as recipients of a wild card) will be starring in the 2017 FIVB Club World Championship, 9-14 May in Kobe. They join hosts Hisamitsu Springs, reigning Asian champions NEC Red Rockets of Kawasaki and the other three wild cards of reigning world champions Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul, VakifBank Istanbul and Volero Zurich.
Playoffs final set in Russia
In Russia Dinamo Kazan joined Dinamo Moscow in the final of the Superleague, after defeating Uralochka NTMK Ekaterinburg 3-1 (20-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-20) in the deciding third game of their best-of-three semifinal series in the Tatarstan capital.
Led by Bulgaria's Elitsa Vassileva who scored 27 points and Irina Zaryazhko who added another 15 (including 7 stuffs), Dinamo Kazan dominated the blocking with as many as 20 stuffs (to Uralochka's 9). With 30 points for Uralochka, Kseniya Ilchenko was top scorer of the game.
Dinamo Moscow had qualified since last week with back-to-back wins over Yenisei Krasnoyarsk. The best-of-finals begin on 17 and 18 April with the first two games in Moscow.
Eczacibasi thrash Fenerbahce. Again.
Just a few days after knocking out crosstown rivals Fenerbahce Istanbul in the European Champions League Playoffs, reigning world champions Eczacibasi VitrA did again, this time with a very convincing win in the Turkish League semifinals.
Eczacibasi hammered Fenerbahce 3-0 (26-24, 25-19, 25-22) on the back of 16 points from Neslihan Demir and despite Serbia's Tijana Boskovic only coming on off the bench in all three sets and Russia's Tatiana Kosheleva once more completely off the lineup. Brazil's Natalia Pereira was joint top scorer of the game with 16 points for Fenerbahce who struggled in reception, as Korea's Kim Yeon-Koung was reduced to just 9 points.
The return match of the home-and-away series (with 'golden set' if necessary) is on Wednesday 12 April.
The other Turkish League semifinal series, featuring Galatasaray Istanbul and defending champions VakifBank Istanbul begins on Monday 9 April.
Italian Playoffs open with cliffhangers
Quarterfinals in the Italian Samsung Gear A1 League opened with some stunning results this weekend with three of the four matches decided in five sets and two away wins to get the ball rolling in the best-of-three series.
Defending champions Imoco Volley Conegliano fought back from two sets down to force a tie-break, but Il Bisonte scored the upset of the round with a shocking 3-2 (25-18, 25-15, 23-25, 17-25, 15-10) win at home in Florence. With Puerto Rico's Stephanie Enright scoring 23 points, Indre Sorokaite adding another 22 and Azerbaijan's Odina Bayramova contributing 20 more, the Florence side dominated on the net at 15 blocks to 9 and 68 kills to 53.
A day earlier reigning European champions Pomi Casalmaggiore had scored a brilliant away win 3-2 (25-21, 26-28, 23-25, 25-17, 15-11) over Unet Yamamay Busto Arsizio, with Valentina Tirozzi leading the way on 24 points and USA's Lauren Gibbemeyer adding 18 to counter the 23 points of the Dominican Republic's Brayelin Martinez for Busto Arsizio.
The result comes just a few days after Busto Arsizio knocked out Pomi in the semifinals of the second-tier European CEV Cup and a few days before they travel to Dinamo Kazan for the first leg of final.
Foppapedretti Bergano staged the other away upset, when they beat Liu Jo Nordmeccanica Modena 3-2 (25-23, 21-25, 30-28, 15-25, 15-10) Saturday night at the PalaPanini, with Myriam Sylla scoring 24 points -though Serbia's Jovana Brakocevic with 27 for Modena was top scorer of the game.
Savino Del Bene Scandicci were actually the only team to enjoy an comparatively easy night, as Floortje Meijners of The Netherlands scored 15 points to lead them to a 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-20) sweep of Igor Gorgonzola Novara who could only rely on the game's top scorer on 21, Katarina Barun of Croatia.
The second matches in the quarterfinal series are on 17 April.
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