Beijing, China, August 17, 2008 - Cuba, USA, Kazakhstan, Brazil and Russia all claimed victories on the last day of the Preliminary Rounds in the Women's Olympic Volleyball Tournament on Sunday. The latest in a long list of VIPs to take in an Olympic Volleyball match was King Carl Gustaf XVI of Sweden and Queen Silvia, who watched Brazil beat Italy.
In Pool A, Cuba beat Venezuela 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-19), USA beat Poland 3-2 (18-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-19, 15-13) in front of 11,000 spectators and reigning Olympic champions China downed Japan 3-0 (26-24, 25-16, 25-19) in front off 13,000 fans.
In Pool B, Kazakhstan downed Algeria 3-1 (25-18, 25-20, 17-25, 25-16), Brazil blanked Italy 3-0 (25-16, 25-22, 25-17) watched by 10,500 fans and Russia downed Serbia 3-0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-20).
Cuba 3 - Venezuela 0
Cuba carry on in the Women's Volleyball tournament as the top finisher in Pool A after handing Venezuela the fifth straight loss of its Olympic debut. The win was Cuba's fifth straight in Beijing and confirms their status as a gold-medal contender. Cuba will play Pool B's fourth finisher, Serbia, in the quarter-finals on Tuesday. Teams exchanged points head-to-head at the beginning of the match. Double-blocks by Daimi Ramirez and Rosir Calderon of Cuba, followed by Nancy Carrillo's prominent spikes, widened the score gap in Cuba's favor. Cuba edged ahead in the second set as their weaker opponent could not set up a decent combination due to their poor serve reception and weaker blocking on the net. Desiree Glod of Venezuela fought hard and the team edged 14-12 ahead in the third set. But Venezuela did not seize the opportunity, whereas Cuba's Ruiz inspired her team with her remarkable heavy spikes. Zoila Barros also stepped up, delivering 90km/h serves that ruined Venezuela's reception and finished off the third set 25-19. When asked whether Venezuela would be back at the Olympic in four years, captain Jayce Andrade replied, "I hope so, it's what we're aiming for. We will try our best to make this a reality. These Olympics Games have given me more experience and I am proud of my team." Cuban Head Coach Antonio Perdomo said: "Venezuela is courageous. They did very well today and I think they gain experience every game. I want to congratulate them on the progress they have already made. We are fighting for the gold medal."
Poland 2 - USA 3
Logan Tom was the match-winner as her team edged out Poland in five sets in their Pool A Volleyball match at Capital Gymnasium. With the teams locked at 13-13 in the fifth set, outside hitter Tom blocked Katarzyna Skowronska to deliver match point before spiking to clinch victory. Poland had difficulty penetrating the USA block early on but gradually found their rhythm with Skowronska leading the way to take the first set. Poland were showing patience as they capitalised on the counter-attack but were hampered by service errors in a second set settled by Kim Willoughby's push to the back court. Malgorzata Glinka and Milena Rosner led the way in attack as the Poles took the third but Heather Bownn scored the vital point as her team drew level again at 2-2 to set the scene for Tom's moment of glory. USA Head Coach "Jenny" Ping Lang said: "Before the game we knew Poland would be a very strong team, especially after Marco Bonitta took over. They are one of the top teams in Europe. We wanted to take this opportunity to play well to prepare for the quarter-finals. We're not playing consistently."
China 3 Japan 0
China have a spot in the quarter-finals after they beat Japan in their Pool A match at the Capital Gymnasium. China started messily. Setter Kun Feng made early passing errors and failed to add an element of surprise to her passes. The Japanese block trio Sachiko Sugiyama, Miyuki Takahashi and Saori Kimura were ready at the net every time, and Feng was soon replaced by Qiuyue Wei. China finally organised their players efficiently as wing-spiker Yimei Wang took to her post at the net and put away eight out of 15 left-court attacks, triggering a renewed rhythm and a service ace from Yunwen Ma that levelled the score at 15-15. Megumi Kurihara put on a good show with some quick reception and fast back-court attacks, and Japan looked to take a second lead. China were faster on their feet, however, and won the set 26-24. Japan cranked up their defence in the second set with setter Yoshie Takeshita popping up balls for Takahashi to drive to the back of China's court. But China were equally persistent and took an unassailable lead of 20-10 via a strong service from prolific wing-spiker Suhong Zhou. Spikes that were missing in the first two sets started slamming in the third as Zhou continued to shine at the baseline. A strong attack from Ruirui Zhao gave China an easy match point, and the game was soon sealed at a score of 25-14. China Head Coach Zhonghe Chen said: "In the beginning of today's match Japan got off to a good start. They pressured us with their service and that imposed a threat to us. Before the score reached 12 we didn't handle the pace of the game well. We made some mistakes and didn't do well in cooperation and our passing was broken. We didn't control our emotions well. Later we played as a team and the young players created pressure on their opponent, especially in blocking."
Kazkahstan 3 - Algeria 1
The two were out for the first ever Olympic Women's Volleyball victory for their respective countries. Both teams were winless going into this match and out of contention for the quarter-finals. "We're going to leave (Beijing), and after that we will have a vacation," said Olga Grushko of Kazakhstan, "It is my first Olympic Games. We came here with a goal to play every game well, and we have already achieved that." Yelena Pavlova of Kazakhstan beat the Algerian blocking with spikes from all over the court as her team took the first two sets. Algeria fought back in the third with Mouni Abderrahim attacking through the middle and the team took their first set of the Olympic Games when Pavlova spiked into the net. "It's our first time to win a set in the Olympic Games. This is not only a historical moment for an Algerian team, but also for an African team," said Algerian player Raouya Rouabhia. Kazakhstan got back their rhythm in the fourth set, with Pavlova and Inna Matveyeva commanding the net and helping them to the first win of their Olympic debut. Algeria clinched their first Olympic Women's Volleyball appearance after winning all of their four matches at the 2008 African Olympic Qualification tournament. Kazakhstan claimed the 12th and final berth as Asian qualifier for Beijing 2008 at the final qualification tournament in Japan in May 2008. Their first Olympic tournament came after their first FIVB World Championships in 2006 and their first FIVB World Grand Prix in 2007.
Italy 0 - Brazil 3
Brazil dominated Italy in straight sets at Capital Gymnasium to move into the Women's Volleyball quarter-finals as leaders of Pool B. Brazil scored nine points on blocks to take the first set 25-16. It started as a test of strength and agility but as the game progressed, Brazil shut down Italy's hitters. Simona Gioli was the only Italian capable of scoring in the second set with her powerful middle attacks and while Taismary Aguero failed to put away her shots, Sheilla Castro was doing exactly the opposite from the other side of the net. Serena Ortolani suffered the same fate on the left side and was replaced by Nadia Centoni after being unable to break the solid Brazilian block. Aguero finally got one spike into the Brazilian court to put Italy four points behind Brazil 22-18 and Martina Guiggi blocked Castro to make it 22-19. But Brazil made two quick blocks for set point and Fabiana Claudino hit on the middle to the right side of Italy to make it 25-22. Italy's defence was more settled at the start of the third set and even when they got blocked, they managed to get the ball back in play for another chance to attack. Centoni and Gioli kept Italy's offence going but Brazil was unstoppable on offence and unbreakable on defence. Castro scored the last point on an attack hit that wrapped-up the match at 25-17. Brazil captain Helia Souza said: "We did well in this match. We were very determined on the court. We did well in service, and that helped us to win the match. We took this match seriously. As I said, we were very determined, fought till the end and displayed our full potential."
Russia 3 - Serbia 0
Russia advanced to the Women's Volleyball quarter-finals after an easy win over Serbia 3-0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-20) at Capital Gymnasium. The victory ensured Russia's third place in Pool B, meaning they will not clash with Cuba in the next round of competition. Serbia kicked off the first set laden with the same technical errors that saw them lose to Italy in straight sets on Friday. Serbia's weak defence was hindered further by a three-man block that was ineffective as their Russian counterparts towered over them at the net. But Serbia made up for the lack of height and accuracy with, as libero Suzana Cebic and Jovana Vesovic synchronised to save unreachable sideline attacks, closing the gap, but still losing the set. Outside hitter Ekaterina Gamova and Liubov "Sokolova" Shashkova formed the driving force behind Russia's offense, with the 2.02-metre tall Gamova topping the scoreboard in the first set with seven points. The second set saw Serbia fail to make the necessary player adjustments and Russia forged ahead to take the set 25-16. As the match closed in on Serbia, coach Zoran Terzic subsituted for Sanja Malagurski in an attempt to revive an attack, with little impact. Serbia's Jovana Brakocevic was the top scorer of the match, converting 16 of 43 attacking attempts. Serbia have emerged from the Pool B preliminaries in fourth place, and face Cuba in the quarter-finals on Tuesday, August 19. Serbia Head Coach Zoran Terzic said: "We made a plan that after the first easy games to raise the level of our form to be ready we wanted to play our best. But we're playing worst that we wanted. How much it is possible to change something. But we want to show something different for the Quarter Finals."
Men's Olympic Volleyball Tournament Preliminary Round match schedule:
*All times are local
Monday, August 18
Bulgaria-Venezuela 10:00 Beijing Institute of Technology
China-Italy 20:00 Capital Indoor Stadium
Japan-USA 22:00 Capital Indoor Stadium
Serbia-Brazil 12:00 Beijing Institute of Technology
Poland-Russia 12:30 Capital Indoor Stadium
Egypt-Serbia 14:30 Capital Indoor Stadium
Drawing of lots for quarter-finals: The FIVB Control Committee of the Olympic Games will conduct the Drawing of lots for the Men's Quarter Finals immediately after the end of the Preliminary Round on Monday. The first four teams of each pool will advance to the eliminatory phase with this format:
A1 vs B4 (seeded)
A2/A3 vs B2/B3 (drawn)
A4 vs B1 (seeded)
The FIVB will draw, according to the FIVB Specific Competition Regulation, the matches A2/A3 vs B2/B3 and set the match order for the quarter-final matches. The Drawing of lots will be open to the media and conducted in the Press Conference Room of the Capital Indoor Stadium.
Volleyball legend Andrea Zorzi is blogging from Beijing with his popular "Follow Me" blog, linked to the FIVB website. Today Zorzi analyses the story so far in the Women's Olympic Tournament and has an interview with Nikola Grbic.