Pila, Poland, August 15, 2003 - USA joined Italy, Brazil and China on Friday to compose the top four teams of 2003 FIVB Girls' Under 18 World Championship after an emotional quarterfinal day when all four teams had to climb their peaks to reach the semis.
USA went into their match against Russia as outsiders but again demonstrated soaring volleyball skills to crack their semi berth. Russia stumbled over simple errors and lost the opener 25-20. Then the Americans charged through the second set, allowing the opposition a mere 16 points.
Russia came back strongly to pull back 2-sets all but the Americans held their nerve I the tiebreaker. Russia came from 11-13 to serve for the match three times but the Americans calmly neutralized match points until the sealed the match 18-16.
"Russia had been training for a long time, and had many international matches in this past year. We had been together for only three weeks and were able to come here and win such an important match," said a delighted US head coach, Shelton Collier. Now the USA must face Italy who prevailed over continental champion Croatia. Croatia left the Squadra Azzura trailing six points at the close of the opening set only to see them triumph after a seesaw contest that finally finished 28-26 for Italy in the second. Croatia regained the lead in the third set but Italy came from behind once again to win the fourth set 25-19 and force the tiebreaker. Emotions ran high in the decider but Italy gained a slight advantage and held on to take the set 15-13.
"At the beginning we performed rather poorly but fortunately we came back to the game just in time," said Italy's captain Veronica Angeloni. The match was sweet revenge for Italy who lost against Croatia in the final of the last European Championship.
In the third quarterfinal sensational Thailand challenged the mighty Brazilians, stealing the second set from them and conceding the fourth at 28-26.
"The way Thailand plays volleyball is so different than ours that we needed some time to adapt both our attack to the opponent's defense and our defense to their way of spiking," said Brazilian head coach, Moura Luizomar.
However Asia will still be represented in the semifinals after China earned an effortless berth, beating Poland in straight sets. The home side, supported by nearly 2,000 devoted fans, failed to prevail over a tightly organized Chinese side. The Poles seemed to be too tense and had many problems with reception. They suffered a humiliating defeat in the third set in which China conceded only 10 points.