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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Nov. 16, 2007) – The U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team, already with its major tournament goal of Olympic qualification in hand, lost to Italy 25-20, 25-18, 27-25 Friday afternoon on the last day of the FIVB World Cup at Nagoya, Japan. The two teams entered the contest as the top two teams in the World Cup standings with coveted 2008 Olympic Games berths already earned.
The U.S., ranked eighth in the latest FIVB world ranking, finished the FIVB World Cup with a 9-2 record and either the silver or bronze medal depending on the outcome of the Brazil (8-2) and Japan (6-4) match later tonight. A Brazil victory pushes the U.S. into third place based on the tiebreaking point ratio. Yesterday, Team USA qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games by assuring itself a spot on the World Cup medal stand following a sweep of Japan.
Italy, ranked fourth in the world, completed the World Cup without a loss in 11 matches for the gold medal.
“Congratulations to the Italy team,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach ‘Jenny’ Lang Ping said. “They have a wonderful program and a great team. I told my players before the game that there is no weakness. You have to earn your own points because the other team will not give you any. At critical moments we made some errors. We have a lot of homework to do.”
The FIVB Volleyball World Cup, held every four years in the preceding year to the Olympics, is the first of three Olympic qualification steps for Beijing 2008. The top three teams at the World Cup qualify for the 2008 Olympics. The FIVB World Cup is a 12-team event with a round-robin playing format of 11 matches in 15 days.
Italy used a 6-3 scoring run to break a 14-all tie in the opening set against Team USA to win 25-20. The Americans closed to within two at 13-11 after falling behind 13-7 in second set, but Italy used a late 5-1 run to net a 25-18 victory. The U.S. overcame a 15-12 deficit in the third set and earned a set point at 25-24, only to watch Italy put the match away at 27-25 on its second match-point opportunity.
The U.S. started Danielle Scott-Arruda (Baton Rouge, La.) and Heather Bown (Yorba Linda, Calif.) at middle blocker, Logan Tom (Salt Lake City, Utah) and Kim Glass (Lancaster, Pa.) at outside hitter, Cassie Busse (Prior Lake, Minn.) at opposite and Lindsey Berg (Honolulu) at setter. Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.) is Team USA’s designated libero for the World Cup. Jennifer Joines (Milpitas, Calif.) started the second set in place of Bown, who returned to start the third set. Robyn Ah Mow-Santos (Honolulu) subbed into the second set and started the third in place of Berg. Ogonna Nnamani (Normal, Ill.) subbed into the match in the second set. Stacy Sykora (Burleson, Texas) entered as a sub in the third set.
Tom led the Americans with 13 points on nine kills and a match-high four blocks to go with 11 digs. Busse, who made her first start of the tournament, carried 11 points with nine kills on 22 swings, one block and one ace. Glass chipped in six kills and a block for seven points. Scott-Arruda totaled six points on four kills and two blocks. Bown contributed four kills, one block and an ace in two sets of action. Berg recorded a kill and 16 assists, while Ah Mow-Santos rounded out the scoring with a block and seven assists. Davis piled up 11 digs and a team-high 25 excellent service receptions on 40 attempts.
“Italy is a great team with a wonderful program,” Busse said. “Our mentality was that we had nothing to lose and just to have fun. It was our last game together for the season and we went out there to play with and for each other. At any given point Italy has six great players on the court and anyone that comes in is a good player. You cannot look at just one hitter.”
Italy held a 43-33 advantage in scoring spikes, while the U.S. held slim slim margin in blocks (10-9). Both teams converted two serves into aces. Italy took advantage of 23 U.S. errors in the match and held its own miscues to 18.
“I can only say that I am really, really happy for our victory in this World Cup,” Italian Head Coach Massimo Barbolini said. “This is the first time for Italy to arrive in the top three teams, so to win it is a bonus. It was important for us to win the last match because it is a great result to arrive with 11 wins in a row. I think this is a wonderful prize for my team and my players because they had a wonderful season. I think they wanted to finish in this way. I want to say thank you to my team and staff for the wonderful year I have lived this year.”
Simona Gioli tallied a match-high 14 points to lead Italy to victory. Taismary Aguero chipped in 13 points, while Antonella Del Core added 11 points.
“I want to congratulate all the players and the staff for this victory today,” Italian captain Eleonora Lo Bianco said. “This is an historical victory. The game was not easy, but we were patient to the end. We knew we had a ticket to Beijing already, but we were still determined not to lose a game. Through repeated practice we have stronger mentality rather than physical power.”
In other completed matches today, Cuba defeated Serbia 23-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-22, Dominican Republic edged Peru 23-25, 21-25, 25-17, 25-10, 15-13, Poland downed Thailand 25-20, 20-25, 25-23, 25-19 and Korea swept Kenya 25-16, 25-17, 25-12.
Teams not making the World Cup medal stand will have two other opportunities to qualify for the Olympics with continental qualification tournaments in December 2007 and the World Olympic Qualification Tournament in May 2008 at Japan.
Team USA matches during the FIVB World Cup can be seen on a delayed basis on NBC’s Universal HD network. For more details and broadcast times, click here.
The U.S. earned the first two-point separation of the opening set at 7-5 as Bown served an ace after an Italian error. Italy responded with consecutive points to tie the set at 7-all right before the first technical timeout, then took the lead at 9-8. Italy increased its margin to two points at 12-10. However, the U.S. rattled off three straight points with kills from Bown and Tom followed by a Italian error to lift Team USA in front 13-12. Italy scored four of the next five points going into the second technical timeout with a two-point cushion, 16-14. The Italians stretched the gap to four points with three consecutive points at 20-16. Italy cruised the rest of the set to a 25-20 victory. Tom paced the American attack with five points in the opening period.
Italy earned an early 4-2 lead in the second set. Glass scored back-to-back kills to tie the set at 5-all, but Italy answered with five straight points to gain a 10-5 advantage. The Italians extended their lead to six points at 13-7 on back-to-back points. Busse cut into the deficit with consecutive kills, followed by a Glass kill and Tom block putting the score at 13-11. Italy increased its lead to six points at 20-14 on a 5-1 run. Busse followed an Italian error with a block to close the U.S. deficit to four, 21-17. However, Italy scored the next two points to regain a six-point margin at 23-17 and closed the set out at 25-18. Busse and Tom each totaled four points for the Americans in the second set.
Italy opened up a 4-1 advantage to start the third set. The U.S. tied the set at 4-all on a Tom block, Busse ace and Italy error. Busse scored consecutive kills to yield an 8-7 U.S. advantage at the first technical timeout. Italy responded with a 4-1 scoring spurt to take a 12-9 lead. The U.S. inched to within one at 15-14 on a Scott-Arruda block after a Glass stuff. Busse scored a kill after an Italian error to tie the score at 17-all, then Team USA took the lead at 18-17 on an Italian error. The lead shifted to Italy’s favor at 23-21 on a 3-0 scoring run. Scott-Arruda tied the set at 23-all on a kill after an Ah Mow-Santos block. The U.S. saved a match point, then took its own set point chance at 25-24 on consecutive Italian errors. Italian earned its second match point opportunity at 26-25 and did not allow that chance to escape as it put away the final point at 27-25. Busse tallied six points in the final set to lead the Americans, who had 10 errors in the set.