Matera, Italy, July 22, 2003 - The FIVB $1 million World Grand Prix ended on a dramatic note on Tuesday night with two extraordinary matches that saw China triumph over Korea and the Netherlands pulling off a surprise victory over hosts and world champions Italy in a five-set thriller.
China and Korea fought a 29-27 battle royal in their opening set, before Korea crumbled in their second, scoring a mere eight points before going down courageously in the third to present China with their second straight win.
In other late action, Netherlands pulled off the surprise of the day when they mowed down Italy in a seesaw match that stretched to the tiebreaker and finished 3-2 (16-25, 25-20, 27-25, 15-25, 15-8) in favor for the Dutch.
Italy's Valentina Fiorin amassed 17 points as match top scorer, with Elles Leferink putting on 15 points for the Netherlands. Italy next faces Cuba, then Japan and finally the USA in this round. China, the Asian powerhouse, faces Thailand on Wednesday before two tough matches with natural adversaries Brazil and Russia.
Earlier, Brazil and the USA both scored their second consecutive wins while Russia and Germany got back into the act of this, the most important annual competition in women's volleyball, reversing losing trends on Monday.
Brazil signaled their seriousness in heading for the 2003 title with a comfortable straight sets win over Canada while Germany, despite a brief third set lapse of concentration, plowed through the young Cuban side to go 3-1 up on this, the second day of play.
Earlier USA beat Japan in a tight tiebreaker that at times had the Americans on the run, while Russia reversed their losing trend with an easy win over Thailand in straight sets.
Brazil hardly seemed troubled in their contest with Canada, emerging 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-20) winners, which gave coach Marco Motta more confidence after his claim on Monday that the green-and-golds had come intent on winning the title.
Germany looked strong against a very youthful Cuban side and with their youngest player just 16-years old, to take the 3-1 (25-16, 25-14, 22-25, 25-16) victory and give themselves a 1-1 win loss ratio to get back in the tournament.
Germany's captain the powerful and lofty Angelina Grün hammered home 16 spikes and scoring three block points to be top scorer for the match. Indira Mastro was top scorer for Cuba with 15 points.
Brazil tops pool B with equal wins to China, but ahead on a superior points ratio, while USA and Netherlands now both have two wins to take the top two slots on Pool A.
Matches continue through Friday in the preliminaries for this round-robin format, with the top six of the 12 teams then advancing to the final round.