Dentil Praia Clube started the finals of the 2020-2021 Brazilian Women’s Superliga in strong fashion on Thursday as the Uberlandia-based club defeated rivals Itambe Minas to win the opening match of the best-of-three series that will determine the season winners.
Playing at the Brazilian Volleyball Federation training facility in Saquarema, Rio de Janeiro, Praia delivered in-state rivals Minas their first defeat in four months and just the second in 27 matches as they posted a 3-1 (25-21, 25-12, 21-25, 25-22) victory over the Belo Horizonte side.
Dominican opposite Brayelin Martinez, who will be one of the stars of the upcoming 2021 FIVB Volleyball Nations League, was instrumental in Praia’s victory with a match-high 22 points (20 kills and two blocks).
A backup during most of the season, 35-year-old outside hitter Michelle Pavao stepped up and was an unlikely key contributor to Praia’s victory with 14 points (13 kills and one ace). She was picked for the player of the match award.
“I’m very emotional because I prepared during the entire season to help the team and today I managed to do it,” Michelle said after the match. “I’m here to help the team in defence and passing and sometimes players who perform that role are not as recognised, but tonight I was able to help in offence too. It was an important step in the right direction for us, but we’re not where we want to be yet. Minas dominated the entire season and are a very strong opponent.”
Middle blocker Ana Carolina ‘Carol’ da Silva had an outstanding performance at the net, registering a match-high eight blocks and four kills to add 12 points for Praia. London 2012 Olympic champion outside hitter Fernanda Garay had the same production, obtained with ten kills and two aces.
American opposite Danielle Cuttino was Minas’ top scorer with 18 points (15 kills, two blocks and one ace). Star middle blocker Thaisa Menezes recovered from a slow start to end the match with 15 points (11 kills, two blocks and two aces).
“Praia are a great team and it’s clear they analysed our game and knew what we wanted to do,” Minas’ captain Carol Gattaz explained. “We didn’t perform the way we should and it’s on us to change it for the second match. We have to believe in the strength of our team.”
Praia are now one victory away from their second-ever Superliga title and they will have their first opportunity to secure it on Saturday, when the teams meet again. Should Minas prevail in the second meeting between the teams, a third and final match will be played on Monday.
Main Photo: Wander Roberto/Inovafoto/CBV