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Brazil, USA set up final rematch in WGP Finals
Eight-time title winner Brazil and defending event champion the United States emerged victorious in the semifinals here on Saturday to set up a final rematch in the 2011 FIVB World Grand Prix Finals.
Brazil, the world No. 1 women’s volleyball team, beat reigning world champion Russia in straight sets to extend its winning streak at this year’s World Grand Prix to 13 and the Americans outgunned World Grand Prix newcomer Serbia with the same margin.
Menezes Thaisa notched up 15 points and Castro Sheilla and Claudino Fabiana each added 12 to award the 26-24, 25-17 and 25-23 victory to Brazil, who lost to Russia 3-2 in the final of the World Championships last year in Japan.
“I am proud of my team, especially the way we played in the third set. We played against the world champions and we won 3-0. It is very important for us,” said Brazil head coach José Roberto Guimarães.
The all-mighty Brazilian women managed to overcome a 22-15 deficit late in the third set and wrap up the match with a 10-1 run, during which powerful Russian gunner Ekaterina Gamova was stopped ice three times and made unforced error.
“It is important to show our power,” Guimarães added. “Maybe nobody believed we could do it, but we did it. We never gave up.”
Gamova’s 17-point performance turned out to be in vain as her side had only bronze medal to play for on Sunday.
“Despite losing today’s match, I am still happy with the outcome. We played some new players in today’s game, so it is an inexperienced team,” said Russia head coach Vladimir Kuzyutkin. “I am happy with what we learnt from today’s game, and there is no regret losing to such a strong team like Brazil.”
The United States, who lost to Brazil 3-1 Friday’s pool B match, will have a chance to challenge the Brazilians again on Sunday after sweeping Serbia 25-22, 25-20 and 25-21 in the second semifinal match.
Destinee Hooker had 15 kills and 5 stuffs to lead the Americans with 20 points with Logan Tom and Foluke Akinradewo adding 12 and 10 respectively. The United States reaped ten points from blocking, compared with only three for the Serbian team, which was spearheaded by Jovana Brakocevic with 19 points.
“From the start today we knew it would be a difficult match. On our side we think we applied strong pressure from the service line, which enabled us to get our blockers and defense into some good positions,” said USA head coach Hugh McCutcheon. “We are very happy to win, and obviously the focus is on tomorrow’s final. I am happy with the performance tonight, and I hope we can build on that tomorrow.”
Earlier on Saturday, Japan obtained a convincing 25-14, 25-23 and 25-23 win over Thailand in the 5th to 6th classification match. Sakoda Saori from Japan and Thai player Apinyapong Wilavan contributed 16 points each to their teams, with another two Japanese Simura Saori and Yamamoto Ai scoring in double digits to secure Japan’s victory.
“Although the Thailand players do not have an advantage in height, they performed well both in attack and defense. I look forward to the chance to play against good opponents like Thailand again in the Asian Championship,” said Japan head coach Masayoshi Manabe.
Making the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals for the first time ever in history, Thailand could be satisfied with the sixth finish, especially taking into consideration its upset win over China in the pool stage.
“We are very happy to be here in the final round. It was a very good experience,” said head coach Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai. “Today it was a very good match for our players to learn. I hope the two teams will meet again in the Asian Championship.”
2011 FIVB World Grand Prix host China dropped its fourth match in a row 3-2 to Italy to finish at the bottom of the eight-team final round.
"I think the Chinese team's current position in the world is around No.10, and we have a long way to go to get back to the first group," said Yu Juemin, who took the helm of the 2004 Athens Olympic gold medallists and 2008 Beijing Olympic bronze medallists last fall.
Having dropped all their pool matches against Serbia, Thailand and Russia, China lost to Italy 25-13, 14-25, 22-25, 25-16, 15-10 in the 7th-8th play-off Saturday afternoon.
Italy’s Gioli Simona was the game’s top scorer with 23 points, while Wang Yimei earned 20 points for China.
“We won because of our serves and because we fought throughout the whole match,” said Italy head coach Massimo Barbolini. “The way we played in difficult moments is the difference between winning and losing, so I am glad with our fighting spirit.”