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Volleyball: Narbonne against the Touraine ogre in the semi-finals

For the first time since 2013, Narbonne Volley is playing in a first division semi-final of the French championship. Like 9 years ago, the Centurions face Tours at this stage of the competition. With a boiling first round in the Robert-Grenon room this Sunday (5 p.m.).

Now the Centurions are continuing the adventure of this already long season, with a League A semi-final and with the firm intention of seeking a second final this year. Nicolas Uriarte, NV passer is happy with what his team has achieved: “We are where we wanted to be.” But the march promises to be very high for this last four of the French championship. Opposite is Tours Volleyball. This team has a plethoric squad, with flashy names and many internationals. Above all, they have an Olympic champion in their ranks, with a certain Kévin Tillie, whom sports fans inevitably followed this summer in Tokyo. And as the president of the NV, Jérémie Ribourel, pointed out: “Of course we are proud of him, because we are French and it is our little Frenchman who won the gold medal. But in a volleyball match, that does not count, and he remains a player like any other despite that.”

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Tours has a long track record: 1 Champions League (2005), 1 CEV Cup (2017), 8 French championship titles (2004, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019), 10 titles French Cup (2003, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2019) and 4 French Supercup (2005, 2012, 2014 and 2015).

Already two finals lost for Tours

But now, as in the European final against Ankara last March, impossible is not Narbonne. And even if on paper, the Tourangeaux leave favorites, for Quentin Jouffroy, central of Narbonne and former player of Tours for two years (2016-2018), the mission is not lost in advance: “I think this year it’s really difficult for them, so we can really do something. They failed twice in the final, so we can go for something.” Indeed, this season, Kévin Tillie’s teammates have already narrowly failed in the CEV Cup against Monza (3-0 and 0-3), and in the Coupe de France against Chaumont (3-2).

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But in the league, the Tourangeaux were intractable. Only two defeats in 27 games played. And in the regular season, the Centurions suffered their law twice (0-3 and 3-0). Nicolas Uriarte believes in the chances of Narbonne: “They are a very good team and they finished first. They are the favourites, but we trust our team and we hope to have a good series.”

Verissimo, injured, is not on the trip

Since qualifying for the semi-finals on April 14 against Nice, Tours Volleyball has been preparing for this meeting. That is twice the time compared to Narbonne, so necessarily the states of form are different. Narbonne had to play a decisive match against Sète on Wednesday and therefore still accumulated physical and mental fatigue. But above all, the Centurions lost an important player, Allan Verissimo. The Brazilian receiver-attacker suffers from a sprained left ankle with partial rupture of the ligaments. Unfortunately, he should no longer play this season under the “pink and black” mallet.

So this Friday at midnight, in the group from Narbonne on the departure for Tours by bus, a certain Rémi Bassereau was present. Not yet 100%, one of the best Narbonnais players this season is on the right track to return to competition. But it is above all a move to remedy the absence of Verissimo. At his side, the three fantastic from the training center, Alexandre Gabin, Julien Faganas and Victor Socié, also left for Indre-et-Loire.

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The Centurions are also looking forward to the return semi-final on Wednesday (7:30 p.m.) at the Arena, like Nicolas Uriarte: “We’re going to need the public and their energy.” Quentin Jouffroy even accentuates his words: “We know that if the Arena is full, we are capable of anything.” Before that, Narbonne Volley therefore has a first round to play this Sunday (5 p.m.), day of the second presidential round, in a room totally committed to the cause of Tours.

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