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Thaisa Menezes in action for Gerdau Minas

In a direct duel for the second place in Pool B at the Club World Champs 2022 in the Turkish city of Antalya on Friday, Gerdau Minas of Belo Horizonte, Brazil managed a 3-0 (25-14, 25-13, 25-20) victory over Kuanysh Club of Petropavl, Kazakhstan to claim the last vacancy in Saturday’s semifinals. At 16:30 local time (13:30 UTC), they will take on Italy’s Prosecco Doc Imoco Conegliano, who secured the first place in Pool A with a 3-1 (25-18, 21-25, 25-22, 25-18) win in the head-to-head encounter with hosts Eczacibasi Dynavit Istanbul. Second-placed Eczacibasi will challenge city rivals and defending champions VakifBank Spor Kulubu in an all-Turkish semifinal clash at 20:00 (17:00).

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Isabelle Haak in attack

Imoco’s Swedish opposite Isabelle Haak and her Serbian counterpart and captain on Eczacibasi’s side Tijana Boskovic engaged in a fierce scoring race, with Haak producing the match high of 26 points, including two aces and three blocks. Boskovic finished with 22 points, including two blocks and an ace. In the first match of the tournament that was pushed beyond three sets, the Panthers’ blocking contributed 11 stuffs against only three for the Tigers. The serving also made a big difference with Imoco piling up seven aces against two for the home side.

Haak hammered the first point of the match and backed it up with an ace for 2-0. Haak again crowned a four-point Imoco series with a monster block for 10-5. With the Swedish star on fire with eight points, the Italian team completely dominated the rest of the set to break away by a huge margin. American outside hitter Kelsey Robinson brought in set point at 24-14, but Eczacibasi managed to deny it four times before Robinson herself finally converted it to a 25-18 win.

Eczacibasi stormed into the second set on a 5-1 run. Moments later, a four-point streak, highlighted by a Boskovic ace, extended the Tigers’ lead to 9-3. Assisted by outside Hande Baladin, the Serbian opposite kept the fire burning in offence, while Imoco’s attempts at a comeback only brought them to within a point. Another three points in a row pushed Eczacibasi to a 24-20 set point, converted with a swing by middle blocker Sinead Jack of Trinidad and Tobago for 25-21.

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Sinead Jack celebrates with her Eczacibasi teammates

An ace by US outside Kathryn Plummer put the finishing touch to a six-point Imoco run to open a 12-5 gap in the third set. Increasing the pressure with their middles, Eczacibasi fought back and managed to narrow it down to a point, but finally, when Haak crowned her brilliant spiking in the set with a pipe shot for a 24-22 set point, it was followed up by a Marina Lubian monster block for the 25-22 win.

After a solid start to the fourth set, with two points in a row by Boskovic, the Tigers let the initiative slip away. Four points in a row on Haak’s serving turn gave the Panthers a 12-7 advantage and they never looked back. This time they kept the home team well at bay. A speedy spike through the middle by Lubian produced match point at 24-18. The game winner was delivered by Plummer with a swing for 25-18.

Legendary middle blocker Thaisa Menezes was Gerdau Minas’s best scorer on the way to their straight-set victory over Kuanysh. The 35-year-old Brazilian contributed 15 points, including three blocks and two aces. She registered a 71% success rate in attack. Opposite Kisy Nascimento added another 10 points, while Kuanysh’s opposite and captain Tatyana Aldoshina delivered the match high of 17 points, all in offence.

The match started with a perfectly placed ace by Minas’ outside hitter Priscila Daroit. With Aldoshina quite efficient in attack, the Asian club champions managed to stay competitive through 7-7, but then the Brazilians took complete control on the court and broke away to an emphatic 25-14 close, with Kisy putting away the set winner.

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Kisy spikes

Minas’ perfect start in the second set was highlighted by an ace from middle blocker Julia Kudiess for 4-0. The squad from Belo Horizonte continued to dominate through the rest of the set. Thaisa was brilliant in all elements, scoring away in attack, in blocking and from the serving line to lead her team to another convincing win, which Kudiess fixed at 25-13 with a successful swing through the middle.

Just like the first set, the third began with a Pri Daroit ace. The rest of the set was not much different from the previous two… for the most part. Minas ran off with a wide lead before a Kudiess ace brought in match point at 24-16. This is when Kuanysh applied one final push and managed to deny the victory as many as four times before Thaisa finally put the ball on the floor for the closing 25-20.