Matera, Italy, July 29, 2003 – Italy met the USA on the second day of the
final round of the FIVB $1 million World Grand Prix on Tuesday for a replay of
the 2002 World Championship final and a determination by both sides that,
despite the 3-0 victory for the USA, produced top line Volleyball and kept the
capacity crowd here in this southern Italian town on the edge of their seats.
These top two teams generate a powerful chemical reaction at the best of
times, and this was one of the best.
The fans braved sweltering heat to support their team who came from a two-hour five set marathon on Monday that
was finally conceded to the Dutch. But across the net, was the much-admired
Keba Phipps, fluent Italian speaker and long-time player in the Italian
professional league, here in a country where volleyball is a passion and a
little bit of the Italian passion for elite Volleyball also fell on that
The USA seized and retained the edge in the first set, leading by two-three
points, and extending in the final phase to match point at 24-19 with Phipps
stepping up to serve. The point fell ingloriously after a block error by the
Italy looked more concentrated in the second set and held a 2-point advantage
at 8-6. An ace by Nadia Centoni to make it 9-6 sent the crowd into a swoon and a
triple block for 6-10 made them expend more energy than the temperature
But the Americans pulled back and Phipps, learning all the tricks she knew in
the game, leveled for USA at 11-all and at 15-all, the tempo and temperature
on and off the court was rising. The USA again took control with a three-point lead at 20-17 and a right-handed
smash by Phipps made it 21-17. Logan Tom aced for set point then drove the
ball into the net but minutes later Phipps delivered the winner and the
Americans were 2-0 in front.
Meanwhile 30 minutes away in Gioia de Colle, Russia had the Netherlands on the
run and were two sets ahead, a signal that their match with Italy had also
been costly in terms of energy. The title holders went on to seal the match 3-
0 (25-22, 25-18 and 25-10).
Italy and USA jousted their way through the final set and the lead oscillated
between the two rivals. Italy was by now running on the high octane of
adrenalin, even though, in the end it was not quite enough to stop USA who
whooped and ran off 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 26-24) winners.
Phipps, both the
scourge and the darling of the Italians, top scored with 15 points.