Ningbo, August 23, 2007 –
The Dutch women, 3-2 winners over the host China on Wednesday, remained as the only unbeaten side after Day Two of the six-team round-robin tournament.
"We played strong defense and our serving put more pressure on Italy, so it is difficult for them to play their quick game," said Netherlands head coach Avital Selinger.
The Dutch women will next play three-time defending champions Brazil, who lost to Russia in five sets on Thursday.
"Tomorrow’s match is always the most important match. We take one match one time," said Selinger. "I think every team is capable of winning the champion of the competition. We are happy that we won two matches, but still three matches to go."
After a sluggish start, Italy, who swept the Netherlands 3-0 in the Verona leg of the FIVB World Grand Prix preliminaries, fought back strongly to secure the second set at 25-22.
The third set was hotly contested when both sides showed strong mentality and played on higher level. After the Netherlands went up at 24-21, Manuela Secolo and Taismary Aguero struck home each to help Italy beat off three set points. However, a shining Flier finally made it happen with a smash and captain Visser closed out the set at 27-25.
The Italian team seemed to be running out of steam in the fourth set, trailing 8-2 and 16-10 behind a high-spirited Dutch team and went down tamely.
The 1.91-meter Flier finished with 22 kills, five blocks and three aces in the match that lasted for one hour and 34 minutes.
Following an easy 3-0 win over Poland in the first round, Brazil met real challenge against reigning world champions Russia before going down 25-16, 15-25, 19-25, 25-17 and 15-13.
Brazil, who were knocked down by Russia 3-2 in the final of the FIVB World Championships last year, dominated early on the net in the opening set, stuffing the Russian attack three times for a 5-0 lead, while the world champions finally opened their account from a Natalia Alimova spike.
Led by giant Ekaterina Gamova, Russia finally overcame the slow start to dominate the match with sizzling attack and relentless blocking to level it at 10-all. After that, the Russians began to overwhelm their opponents who were plagued by too many errors due to impatience and sloppy play.
At 20-15 up, the Russian team was never really threatened. A long serve from Gattaz Caroline guaranteed Russia a comfortable early lead at 25-16.
The second set saw a different Brazilian team, with Pequeno Paula and Castro Sheilla scoring some key points to fire the team up 8-5 and 16-9 at the first and second TTO. With the big cushion, the six-time FIVB World Grand Prix title winners cruised to the victory at 25-15.
Then the two volleyball powerhouses split the next two sets, forcing the tiebreaker, where Russia erased a 6-3 deficit with a 7-1 run en route to the victory.
"We played very well today. We did a great job in serving, digging and blocking," said Russia coach Giovanni Caprara.
Ekaterina Gamova had 15 kills and four blocks to lead Russia with 19 points with Elena Godina and Natalia Alimova adding 15 and 11 points respectively.
The Russian women finished with a total of 18 blocks, compared with 9 for Brazil.
In Thursday’s final action, the host China struggled past Poland 21-25, 25-15, 25-16, 22-25 and 15-9. With the hard-fought victory, the Chinese snapped a three-match losing streak connecting the FIVB World Grand Prix preliminaries and Finals.
Trailing 7-6 in the tiebreaker, China ran off nine of the last 11 points for the victory.
"Another five sets match, my team plays hard, and really wants to win the match," said China head coach Chen Zhonghe. "As we lost yesterday, our general conditions were not so good before the match and our players looked depressed. I made the decision on my starting line-up just before the match."
"Through the match, we could see that the team had ups and downs, and could not score the key points. We have to admit that our level is not among the top class, we still have to improve."
Veterans Yang Hao, Zhang Yuehong and Zhou Suhong combined for 46 points for China.
The Netherlands now led the standings with two wins while Russia, Brazil, Italy and China each recorded one win and one loss. FIVB World Grand Prix Finals debutants Poland have yet to find a win.
photo Getty Images