Matera, Italy, July 30, 2003 - Russia and China charged on in the FIVB $1 million World Grand Prix on Wednesday both scoring third straight victories to put them in the box seat for a last match showdown on Sunday when this elite annual women's volleyball tournament finishes.
Russia, atop the table with China in second on an inferior points ratio, charged through their match against USA firing on all cylinders to take the 3-1 (25-19, 21-25, 25-21 and 25-17) victory in a style that promoted the USA coach Toshiaki Yoshida to remark after the match: "Russia played excellently," he said. "We couldn't touch their spiking. Today we just couldn't get near them."
Meanwhile world champions Italy virtually said goodbye to their chances of a top finish with a resounding 3-1 (25-22, 23-25, 25-15, 25-20) defeat at the hands of China. It was Italy's third defeat so far in the final round.
The Chinese women gained sweet revenge for their 3-1 loss to Italy at the 2002 World Championship in 2002 with a 25-22, 23-25, 25-15 and 25-20 victory over the reigning world champions; the Chinese are also in a good position to win their first title.
Although the USA, silver medalists to Italy's gold at the 2002 World Championship, retained their tradition of tenacious fighting, they were certainly outgunned by the lofty Russians. Ekaterina Gamova was almost invincible, hammering home 23 points for top match scorer, while USA's Haneef Tayyiba had one of her best matches of the series, top scoring for the USA with 18 points. Gamova's inimitable captain Euvgenia Artamonova also added 17 spike points.
The last match of the day was a spirited encounter between Korean and Netherlands in which a Dutch renaissance saw them clamber back into the match to level at 2-sets all to force the tiebreaker then going on to win 3-2 (18-25, 23-25, 25-21, 25-20 and 22-20).
The Asians had a strong start with two convincing opening sets, but the young Netherlands lineup came back like a hurricane and then helped orchestrate a thrilling tiebreaker that finally fell their way to conclude the matches in this part of the tournament.
The competition now moves to Andria where matches resume on Aug. 2 with China vs. Netherlands, Italy playing Russia and USA vs. Korea. On the final day of this round robin format tournament, Netherlands plays USA, Korea faces Italy and the final match, which could be a cliffhanger climax, Russia plays China.