Tokyo, Japan, November 13, 2010 - Defending champions Russia scored a convincing victory over the United States in a hard-hitting four-set semifinal (25-16, 13-25, 25-19, 25-21) to advance to the gold medal match at the 2010 FIVB Women’s World Championship at Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan on Saturday.
Ekaterina Gamova topped the Russian scores with 22 points while veteran Liubov Shashkova and Tatiana Kosheleva registered 18 and 16 points respectively. American Destinee Hooker finished with a match-high 23 points. Three other USA players compiled double digits in the scoring charts with Jordan Larson, Foluke Akinradewo and Heather Bown notching 15, 12 and 10 respectively. The Russians held the upper hand in the blocking category (10-6) and edged their opponents 4-3 in the aces department.
In the first set, Russia dominated early, taking leads of 10-5 on Tatiana Kosheleva’s spike, and then 15-8 as Logan Tom fluffed a set. Hooker’s serve caught the line to make it 18-13, but the USA couldn’t handle Russia’s attack, and Gamova pounded a ball off a US defender to go 22-15. Evgeniya Startseva hit a service ace, and Liubov Shashkova’s spike penetrated the US blocking wall, as Russia won the set by a convincing 25-16 margin.
In the second set the US raised their game, surprising many who expected Russia to blow them out after the first set. The US took leads of 8-7, 10-8, 15-9 and 20-10 on Hooker’s spikes and strong serving by Akinradewo in particular. Russia seemed slow to react as the US effectively used fake spikers to throw off the Russian blockers. Unable to hit over Russia’s wall of 2m blockers, Larson smartly whacked a ball off their hands to go up 22-10. Stranded at the back, Gamova couldn’t react quickly enough as the US attack befuddled the Russians and the US won a rousing set 25-13.The play intensified in the third set. In one hard-fought rally, Larson had to hit four spikes in a row to finally win the point. But Russia’s height advantage began to show through as they commanded the net to go up 18-13. Stacy Sykora made a painful body-block of Gamova’s missile, and the US scrambled back to 19-15. Loaded with weaponry, Russia varied their attack through Shashkova and then Gamova, to go up 22-16, forcing another USA timeout. The US continued to find success on the left-wing through Larson, to narrow the gap to 23-18 and 24-19. But Hooker couldn’t handle a ferocious Russian hit, and Russia captured the set 25-19.
In the fourth set, the US tried to stay close off Hooker’s swooping leaps and swats from middle positions, as well as Larson’s hits from the left wing but Gamova continued to pound the US defence. Kosheleva’s resounding block gave Russia a 17-14 edge. Berg’s hustle save kept the USA alive in a key rally, but Sykora couldn’t track down the ball deep behind the court, and Russia were in command at 18-14. Gamova used all of her 2.02m to hammer a ball straight down for a 19-16 lead, and Kosholeva showed Russia’s depth with two attacks from the left for 20-17 and 21-18. Shashkova won a bitter net battle to go up 22-18. Again, the US found Larson open on the left, as Russia loaded up in the middle hoping to stop Hooker. Gamova capped a dramatic rally with a monstrous windmill spike high above the net to give Russia set point at 24-19, and Russia’s power lifted them to a 25-21 set win, and the match.