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FIVB Women's Olympic Games 2008

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Brazil, Italy, Russia, USA, Cuba, Japan claim wins on third day of Women's Olympic Volleyball Tournament in Beijing

Cuba celebrate a brilliant come-from-behind victory over reigning Olympic champions China on Wednesday in Beijing

Beijing, China, August 13, 2008 - Brazil beat Serbia in straight sets for their third consecutive win without dropping a set on the third day of the Women's Olympic Volleyball Tournament. Italy, Russia, USA, Cuba and Japan also won their matches on Wednesday as the Preliminary Round pools started to take shape.

USA beat Venezuela 3-1 (25-17, 20-25, 25-14, 25-18), Cuba came back from two sets down to beat reigning Olympic champions China 18-25, 14-25, 25-23, 32-30, 15-1 in front of 13,000 and Japan held on to beat Poland 25-21, 25-20, 18-25, 23-25, 15-11 in Pool A. Cuba sit top of the pool.

In Pool B, Italy swept Algeria 3-0 (25-7, 25-20, 25-12) to improve to 3-0, Russia won in straight sets against Kazakhstan 25-19, 25-18, 25-11 for their first win in front of 12,000 spectators and Brazil cruised past Serbia 3-0 (25-15, 25-13, 25-23) watched by 11,000. Brazil and Italy both have six points at the top of the pool, with Serbia on five with a 2-1 win-loss record.


Venezuela 1 - USA 3

The United States bounced back from their straight sets loss to Cuba on Monday to defeat Venezuela in four sets at the Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium. With the win, USA improved their win-loss record to 2-1, making a step further to the quarter-finals while Venezuela dropped to 0-3. Razor-sharp spikes from frontline Tayyiba Haneef-Park and several back-court attacks by Kimberly Glass gave USA a great start and they took the set 25-15. But Venezuela, who have not won a single set in the previous two matches, fought back in the second set, with Jayce Andrade combining with Desiree Glod and spiking through the weak American's blockers. Two fabulous drop-shots from Aleoscar Blanco gave Venezuela an advanced lead and the set 25-20. This was the first set Venezuela won in the tournament. USA captain Robyn Ah Mow-Santos' sudden drop-shot caught the Venezuela defence off-guard affecting their rhythm. Venezuela committed crucial mistakes on their defence to give their opponents the lead in the third set which Haneef-Park continued to widen with deadly spiking. USA maintained their momentum in the fourth set using Glass's back-court spikes from the right and a service error by Blanco into the net gave the set and the game to the United States. Haneef-Park finished with a game-high 17 points. Ahmow-Santos said: "We are very happy with the win, a win is a win, but we are still not happy with our performance. During the match, we tried to eliminate errors and we did not do so good with that. Every game is on the line, and whoever makes the most errors will ultimately lose the game. We made a lot of errors coming into this game, and we have to make sure we eliminate those."

Cuba 3 - China 2

Cuba staged an inspiring comeback from two sets down to outgun defending champions China in five sets. It took the Cubans more than two hours to claim their third consecutive victory despite the overwhelming cheers of the home fans. The two teams, both unbeaten after two preliminary rounds, needed to win this match to ensure a better position in the quarter-finals. However, Cuba's high jumpers proved a cut above the host, especially on defending in the latter part of the match. Rosir Calderon and China's Wang Yimei were best scorers of the two teams, both contributing 26 points. It was the fourth clash between host China and the three-time Olympic champion Cuba since June with Cuba winning two of the three matches. The Chinese captured the first set with fast attack and solid defence. China dominated the second set after Cuba became more prone with unforced serving and spiking errors. China still controlled the game at the first half of the third set to lead 15-11, when Cuba found their rhythm to stage a stunning 8-0 run to take over the lead 19-15 with ace serves and high spikes from the left side of the court. The Cubans maintained their advantage and Yumilka Ruiz's splendid cross-court spike helped Cuba to pull one set back. The fourth set turned out to be a tit-for-tat battle and the distance between the two teams never exceeded two points. Rosir Calderon exhibited her mighty spikes to save four match points before Rachel Sanchez won the set with a spike. In the decider, China squandered an early led 3-0 and Cuba reinforced its defence to exchange the lead with China in turns. At a 13-all tie, Calderon acted as the saviour of the team again. With a pair of spikes, she helped Cuba to take the match. China Head Coach Zhonghe Chen said: _"My players have given their best at the court and played well at the first two sets, but Cuba is more experienced than us at the big points. Their powerful serves also caused great troubles to our reception.

Poland 2 - Japan 3

After a quick start, Poland lost the their pace and Japanese spiker Saori Kimura (seven points) tied the set. Five errors from Poland in the middle of the set gave to Japan the opportunity to win the set. In the second set the teams switched roles. Poland started poorly and got the tie at 11-11. Japan reached the second TTO leading 16-13 relying on an amazing intensity in dig and cover. Japanese players gained a lot of opportunity exploited with smart attack. Head Coach Shoichi Yanagimoto's team climbed to 21-16 and then closed the set. Poland Head Coach Marco Bonitta replaced the Polish setter Milena Sadurek with Katarzyna Skorupa and confirmed Milena Rosner as hitter. Poland made a comeback on the third set. Maigorzata Glinka stepped up to send explosive spikes to the Japanese side. Katarzyna Skowronska aided the Glinka raid by displaying powerful spikes on the right and back-row and giving the set to Poland. Japan led most of the fourth set, but choked as they could not score the last four points of the set. The Japanese renewed their offence and were more successful as Poland could no longer repeat their offensive run. Poland committed errors towards the end as Kimura and Megumi Kurihara took advantage, Japan finally ending the last set with an outside hit from Kurihara. Japan captain Yoshie Takeshita said: "It was a difficult match, but we maintained our confidence for the entire match. Polish players are tall and strong and their attacks put a lot of pressure on us, but we succeeded staying focused."


Italy 3 - Algeria 0

World No. 2 Italy took just 54 minutes to easily sweep past Algeria in straight sets at the Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium. With the win, Italy improved their win and loss record to 3-0 while dropped Algeria to 0-3. Italy are expected to earn a quarter-final berth while Algeria are yet to win a match after three attempts, and the chances for them to enter the top eight are very slim. The 2007 FIVB World Cup winners Italy, one of the top favourites for the gold medal, were dominant right from the first set, making clear to their opponents that they were not going to do any favours. Through the lethal spikes and blockings from Martina Guiggi and Taismary Aguero, who scored seven points in the set, they proved too strong for the 21st-ranked North Africans, winning 25-7. Having won the first set with a big 14-point margin, the Italians were over-relaxed and lost their concentration while their opponents, on the contrary, had not loss their fighting spirit and confidence. Though they lost the second set, they won a total of 20 points, winning huge applause from the spectators. After the first two sets, the third one was basically a mirror image of the first set, with Italy powering to a 25-12 win on the back of wonderful spiking from Nadia Centoni and Serena Ortolani to wrap up their third victory in as many games. Aguero did not play in the third set. Nadia Centoni was the leading scorer with 16 points, followed by Aguero with 11 points. Italian Head Coach Massimo Barbolini said: "It was important for us to play a good match today to continue with the same intensity (as in previous matches). It was also important for the (Olympic competition) points. We played well in the first set and third set, but made some little mistakes in the second, probably too many mistakes. But I am happy because now we are sure to be in the quarterfinals. Now we have to think about the next two matches because they are very, very important."

Russia 3 Kazakhstan 0

The Russians recorded their first victory with a triumph over Kazakhstan at Capital Indoor Stadium. Ekaterina Gamova scored 14 points as the Russians inflicted Kazakhstan's third consecutive loss. Captain Yelena Pavlova was at the heart of the Kazakhstan attack, ending the game with 17 points. Russia edged ahead early in the opening set, only for Kazakhstan to grab three straight points to level at 10-10. But after a time-out, the Russian attackers started to dominate and built a commanding lead. Natalia Alimova repelled a Kazakhstan spike from the outside to seal the first set. Russia's Maria Sheshenina provided well-distributed sets to her attackers Gamova, Evgenia Estes and Liubov "Sokolova" Shashkova during the second set, with Olga Fateeva closing it out. Russia were even stronger in the third set, disposing of Kazakhstan in 21 minutes. The Russians picked on Kazakhstan libero Yelena Ezau to receive their powerful serves and spikes. Alimova sealed the win with a drop shot on the middle of Kazakhstan's court. Russia captain Sheshenina said: "We have a lot to improve. In the future we will concentrate on our attacking skills."

Serbia 0 - Brazil 3

Seven-time World Grand Prix champion Brazil romped past European Championship runner-up Serbia 3-0 for its third consecutive straight-sets win. Following easy victories over Algeria and Russia, the Brazilians continued to show their dominance in the sweep of the Serbian women, who stunned the world by winning the bronze medal at the 2006 FIVB World Championships. Going down tamely in the first two sets, Serbia fought hard in the third to cut its early 15-10 deficit to one to pull within 24- 23, only to see Fabiana Claudino jump high in the middle for a solid kill to wind up the match in 67 minutes. Sheilla Castro led Brazil with 15 points and Paula Pequeno had six blocks to add 13 for the South Americans. The Brazilians, who have never won a gold medal in the "Big Three" tournaments, namely Olympics, World Championships and World Cup, are in a very good position to finish top of preliminary Pool B, but have a tough match to play against Italy on Sunday. Brazil Head Coach Jose Roberto Guimaraes said: "We are in good shape, but we did not expect to win over Russia and Serbia this way. We have improved our blocking, defence and serving since the World Grand Prix final round and I don't know what else we can improve on. I just hope that we can keep playing like this. There is a risk that the players would think it is easy (to win), we must stop that from happening. We have to forget the victory and focus on our next match against Kazakhstan."

Follow Me

Volleyball legend Andrea Zorzi is blogging from Beijing with his popular "Follow Me" blog, linked to the FIVB website.  Today Zorzi writes an expert analysis on Beach Volleyball, with the promise of more to come on the differences between Volleyball and Beach Volleyball.



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