The Dominican Republic pulled off a remarkable comeback on Wednesday to overcome Serbia 3-2 (14-25, 19-25, 25-23, 25-22, 15-12) in the FIVB World Cup at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
Dominican captain Milagros Cabral collected the Most Impressive Player award after picking up 26 points. Bethania De La Cruz added 18 for the Dominicans, including three blocks and three service aces while Prisilla Rivera contributed 12. Serbia’s top scorer was Milena Rasic with 21 followed by Jovana Brakocevic scored 19 points for Serbia.
Serbia outblocked the winners 17-9, but setter Niverka Marte scored four aces as the Dominicans won the battle from the service line 11-5.
Neither side started in particularly dynamic fashion with both sides making early errors. Serbia had some luck spiking down the middle and using soft tipovers, but the Dominican Republic’s big guns were largely silent. It was all-square through 7-7 when the Dominicans lost the plot and allowed Serbia seven unanswered points, including three errors and successive blocks by Milena Rasic on big hitters Bethania De La Cruz and Milagros Cabral, who final stopped the rot with a trademark thump. But that only made the score 14-8, and more good blocking by the Serbs helped them extend their lead to 20-11. Serb captain Jovana Brakocevic, who has played very little during this tournament due to a hand injury, came in and delivered a couple of big hits, as Serbia cruised to victory in the set. Tijana Malesevic earned setpoint with a spike and then put her team 1-0 up with a block on Lisvel Eve.
A nice hit by Cabral and a service ace by De La Cruz weren’t enough to offset more early errors from the Domincans and Dominican coach Marcos Kwiek called a timeout with the score at 2-6. His team responded with a good block by Eve and a great serve by Cindy Rondon and they were gifted two points on service reception errors by Brizitka Molnar that narrowed the gap to 8-10. Spikes by Cabral and De La Cruz made the score 13-12 in Serbia’s favour, but a reception error by Brenda Castillo and a lucky serve from Ana Antonijevic put Serbia four points up at the second technical timeout. Serbia stretched their lead to seven points before a brief wag of the tail brought the Dominicans back to 22-19, with Cabral and Prisilla Rivera both landing a pair of kills. A bullet from Brakocevic brought up setpoint for the Serbs and a terrific block by Rasic on Cabral made the score 2-0.
Serbia couldn’t do anything at the start of the third set as the Dominican Republic went on a six-point run to lead 7-1 before the Serbs fought back with a hit by Malesevic, a great block by Rasic on Cabral and a neat line drive by Brakocevic (set up by another super block from Rasic). But a hit by Cabral saw the Dominicans four points ahead at the first TTO. Not for long, though. Two errors and a pair of hits by Molnar drew the two teams level at 9-9 and it stayed close through 17 when a couple of good blocks by De La Cruz saw the Dominicans open up a two-point gap. But a long spike by the same player and a spike by Malesevic brought the scores level again at 20. A spike by Rasic and a block by Brakocevic on Cabral put Serbia two points up at 23-21, but poor play by Serbia saw the scores level at 23. The Dominicans then stopped three Serbian attacks before Cabral brought up setpoint. The Dominican captain then sent a spike down the line to bring her team back into the match.
The set win was a big psychological boost for the Dominicans and they kept their tails up at the start of the fourth set. Cabral earned a couple of spiking points and the Serbs gave up a couple of points on errors, allowing their opponents to move into a two-point lead at the first TTO. After that it was neck-and-neck. The Serbs finally took the lead at 15-14 when Cabral lost her sense of direction and planted two hits wide, but it was all square at 16. A spike by Brakocevic and a fabulous block on Cabral by Rasic saw the Serbs two points up again at 19-17, but more poor reception by Molnar – three failures in four points – virtually handed the set to the Dominicans. Molnar gave the Dominicans setpoint with a long spike and De La Cruz brought the teams level at 2-2 with a hefty hit.
The Dominicans jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the tiebreaker as the Serbs struggled to get their game together. De La Cruz came up with two good hits and a great block on Brakocevic as the Serbs fell four points back at the changeover. Kwiek called a timeout as Serbia recovered two points, but his team dropped the ball and it was all-square again at 10-10. The Serbs then lost their range and sent three straight hits out of bounds to make the score 13-10. A De La Cruz serve then hit the net cord and trickled over to hand the Dominicans four matchpoints at 14-10. Serbia saved two before captain Cabral powered a spike through the Serbian defence.
photos Janos Schmidt