It wasn’t decided until the final set of the last match of the best-of-three series, but Itambe Minas won the Brazilian Women’s Superliga for the second time in a row and the fourth in club history on Monday.
Playing at the Brazilian Federation training facility in Saquarema, Rio de Janeiro, Minas had an inconsistent evening, but came up big in the most important moments to defeat in-state rivals Dentil Praia Clube 3-2 (25-17, 13-25, 12-25, 25-18, 15-11) and turn the series around after losing the opening match last Thursday.
The Belo Horizonte-based club had previously won national titles in 1992-1993 (when the tournament was called the National League), 2001-2002 and 2018-2019. The title capped off a strong season for Minas, who won 27 of their 29 Superliga matches and also lifted trophies in the Brazilian Cup and the Mineiro Championship.
"It was an amazing season," Minas head coach Nicola Negro said. "We headed into the semifinals with 23 consecutive wins, but unfortunately let our level drop a little bit. Praia were a fantastic opponent and demanded a lot from us. I'm proud and happy about this title because I feel the team really deserved it."
The title rewarded an outstanding season for two-time Olympic champion middle blocker Thaisa Menezes, who scored 12 points in the final and took home the season's Most Valuable Player award.
"It was really frustrating that we couldn't end last season," Thaisa commented about the 2019-2020 season, which was cut short due to the pandemic. "All I had in mind coming into this season was that I wanted to keep getting better and helping Minas. All I tried to do was step up in the most difficult moments and help with my experience, and tonight we did it together once again."
A London 2012 Olympic silver medalist, American outside hitter Megan Easy was top scorer for Minas in the final match of the season with 24 points (21 kills, two blocks and one ace), followed by outside hitter Pri Daroit, who added 13. Brazilian national team setter Macris Carneiro received the player of the match award.
"We helped each other every time the team was going through difficult moments," Macris said. "We had two awful sets but we knew that the only way out would be playing as a team. The hard work we put in all year long really makes a difference in moments like this."
Praia, who won the Superliga back in 2017-2018, relied on Dominican opposite Brayelin Martinez, who produced 22 points (21 kills and one block). London 2012 Olympic champion outside hitter Fernanda Garay scored 18 points (16 kills and two blocks), five more than Beijing 2008 Olympic champion middle blocker and team captain Walewska Oliveira.
The Superliga Dream Team featured Macris as setter, Tandara Caixeta as opposite, Garay and Daroit as outside hitters, Thaisa and Ana Carolina ‘Carol’ da Silva as middle blockers and Camila Brait as libero. Negro was the best coach of the season.
A Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic champion, Thaisa was the best blocker of the season with 111 points and had the most effective offense with a 55% efficiency rate. SESI Bauru Volei's opposite Polina Rahimova was the season's top scorer with 440 points and also the best server with 31 aces. Brait had the highest passing percentage at 78%.
Several players involved in the final are expected to appear in the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Nations League including Thaisa and Macris of Minas, Praia’s Carol and Garay and the Dominican sisters Brayelin and Jineiry Martinez.
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Main Photo: Wander Roberto/Inovafoto/CBV