|Laura Macchi has provided the glue to hold Famila Schio together|
Whilst stopping short of a fairytale return, the sight of Laura Macchi shooting down Rivas Ecopolis to propel Famila Schio to another EuroLeague Women Final Eight was one of the most engaging sights of the season so far.
Way back last autumn, the Italian club made a scorching start to the campaign, winning six of their first seven games with Macchi doing what she does best, inspiring her team to success.
Her 18-point haul and dagger triple on opening night, set Schio on their way with a thrilling 76-75 win at Municipal Targoviste.
But, just when everything was running smoothly, Macchi was scythed down by illness after being diagnosed with a kidney problem.
Confined to the sidelines for two months, the veteran explained to fibaeurope.com correspondent Paul Nilsen that it's been a tough time of late, although recent success on the floor for Schio is giving her the strength to return to full fitness.
"Personally it has been a difficult season for me due to the problem with the kidney" said Macchi.
"But, thanks to the work done during recent weeks with training, the situation is getting better and better.
"Also, the season is going very well since we are first in the Italian League and in the hunt for the title, whilst we won the Italian Cup only last weekend.
"And, of course now we will play at EuroLeague Women Final Eight."
The fact that Schio will step out once again in the season finale is very much down to Macchi, having poured in 23 points during the crunch third play-off game against Rivas - a sweet moment indeed for the player known affectionately as ‘Chicca'.
However, rather than dwelling on what was a great night for everyone associated with the club, she is now solely focused on finding success at Final Eight.
"We have to play three hard games and every team is strong, but we have nothing to lose and so we will try to play right until the end," insisted Macchi.
|The acquisition of players in the calibre of Jantel Lavender in the off-season, leaves Famila Schio with higher expectations going into the Final Eight this time round.|
"Our team will be less physical than others, so we have to play together, and pour our talent out for the sake of the team.
"I guess it's just a shame Ekaterinburg is very far for our fans to travel."
Last year, Schio finished seventh at Final Eight but managed to pick up an historic first victory. However, the team that will step out in Russia this week is very different from the one which hit the hardwood last season.
"Yes it's true that we have changed many players from Istanbul," she agreed.
"But, we now have more freshness with Giorgia Sottana, Jantel Lavander, the energy of Danielle McCray along with the solidity and experience of Elodie Godin and Kathy Wambe."
Whatever happens in Ekaterinburg, this Final Eight won't be any kind of swansong for Macchi. Mention turning 34 years old in May and question whether there is still an appetite to continue competing at the elite level basketball and you can expect to be met with the most emphatic of responses.
"Yes, thanks for reminding me," laughed the Verese native.
"For sure the problem with the kidney makes me feel more tired, but I'm also very happy because many Italian and European teams have called about next year.
"So I think - or at least I hope, that I'm not really so old!"
Macchi and Schio open their account in Ekaterinburg with a game against Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje.