Betim, Brazil, December 7, 2019 –Serginho Nogueira was the face of Sada Cruzeiro Vôlei for the last nine years. Since the start of the 2019-2020 volleyball season, however, the libero shirts of the Brazilian team have been worn by a different player, 32-year-old Lucas ‘Lukinha’ de Deus.
At the end of the 2018-2019 season, the team decided to part ways with the 40-year-old Serginho, who signed with the Czech Republic’s Black Volley. It was the end of an era for the club as the experienced libero left Sada Cruzeiro with 34 titles under his belt, including three Club World Championhips and six Brazilian Superligas, a record in the country.
Then comes Lukinha.
“He’s obviously a great libero and a player who marked his name in the club’s history with several records, so I understand that there’s a lot of expectations from the fans and everyone else about my arrival,” the defender explained. “But all I want is to help the team to continue winning and to write my own history here and the only way to do it is by taking care of my game and playing the best I can.”
Serginho in action for Sada Cruzeiro during last year's Club World Championship
Lukinha’s stint with Sada Cruzeiro is still young but it has already generated a gold medal, the one of the Minas Gerais State Championship. The libero has also been one of the most solid players of the Brazilian team at the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship, as he ranks first in digs in the entire tournament after the conclusion of the preliminary round.
The libero, a Junior world champion in 2007 with Brazil, is just one of the several new faces of the team for 2019-2020, such as outside hitters Facundo Conte and Gordon Perrin and middle-blocker Otavio Pinto, and he expects Sada Cruzeiro’s level to get even higher as chemistry among them evolves.
“It’s a new team, so we’re still adjusting to each other,” he explained. “We’re still fine tuning our receiving and or defense, but I think we’ve made a good progress so far. But the truth is I’m never really satisfied. Even when I acknowledge I’m playing well, I’ll always see somewhere I can still get better.”
With Sada Cruzeiro, Lukinha is competing at the Club World Championships for the first time in his career and facing some of the best teams in the planet in Betim, something he got used to when he played for Austria’s Hypo Tirol Innsbruck between 2014 and 2018.
The Brazilian team, which is set to play Russia’s Zenit Kazan in the semifinals on Saturday, is fighting for its fourth world title, which would be a more than promising start for the libero at his new club.
“The opportunity to play against teams like Lube Civitanova and Zenit Kazan is fantastic,” Lukinha added. “I played a lot against them when I was in Austria because our team would frequently compete at the Champions League, but I feel the level got even higher. It’s been a great week for us and I’m confident we’ll end the tournament a better team than when we started it.”