October 29, 2003 - With their training program completed and their practice matches over, the Italian Women's Volleyball team have all eyes on the 2003 Women's World Cup, which starts in Japan on Saturday.
Just before leaving Italy for Japan on Monday, the Italians completed a warm up match against an All Star lineup featuring foreign players who ply their trade in the Italian Championship.
The 3-1 defeat was not exactly what coach Marco Bonitta will have ordered but he entered the match with the mindset there was no point risking anything.
"I didn't want to ask too much and create pressure, I just wanted to test our improvements and I'm very happy with the way of playing and I feel confident," Bonitta told La Gazetta de la Sport. "I just asked my players not to risk too much, because I wanted to try some things while trying to avoid any kind of injury.
"The match was very important to show the love of the Italian public for the Italian team, even though this time there is no gold medal to show but just a sixth place gained at the European Championship. It is also important for the National Team to feel this love and respect in this moment in which they are reconstructing the self confidence and solving some small internal problems."
After winning the 2002 World Championship in Germany, the Italian's women's team finished fifth in the 2003 World Grand Prix on home soil and received a Wild Card to compete in the World Cup.
Bonitta ran the changes with new opposite Nadia Centoni filling in for the injured Elisa Togut, who will miss the World Cup through injury while Simona Gioli also had time as an opposite.
And Bonitta can't avoid the injury plague. On his team's arrival in Japan, Darina Mifkova looks in doubt for the opening match against Egypt on Saturday after suffering a heal injury. The good news is that Simona Rinieri is ready to play after suffering from injury in the past few days.