Hamamatsu, Japan, November 2, 2010 – The Czech Republic came from two sets down to upset World No.4 Italy (25-27, 27-29, 25-23, 25-22, 17-15), in a two-hour and 20-minute marathon Pool B match in the 2010 FIVB Women’s World Championship at the Hamamatsu Arena on Tuesday. Depending on other results, Italy could still win the group by beating Brazil on Wednesday, or they could also end up third by losing, while the Czechs will hope to go 3-2 if they can beat Kenya.
Perhaps hoping for an easy match before tomorrow’s showdown with World No.1 Brazil, Italy had their hands full throughout the match. The Czechs blew set points in both the first and second set due to missed spikes and unforced errors but they fought back to win a tight third set, and then the fourth by finally nailing their spikes and blocks. With Italy up 6-3 in the fifth, the Czechs charged back to take it 17-15 to record the biggest upset of the tournament so far.
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In the first set the Czechs clung to early leads of one or two points but they were never able to get away from Italy who crept into the lead at 23-22 after Eleonora Lo Bianco and Simona Gioli combined brilliantly. Fighting power with power, the Czechs struck back, as did the Italians for set point, which the Czechs saved. Aneta Havlickova’s spike then fell off Italian hands, giving the Czechs their turn to seize the set at 25-24, but a block and two missed spikes gave Italy the set 27-25.
The match remained a tight affair and with the second set tied at 24-24 Ivana Plchotova’s block in the middle gave the Czech Republic a set point, but the ball went through Lucie Muhlsteinova’s fingers to tie it at 25-25. Helena Havelkova’s missed spike gave Italy a chance, but they scuffed it again with a service fault, while Serena Ortolani crushed a spike cross-court for Italy while Plchotova answered back with her own rocket. The crafty Lo Bianco then found Francesca Piccinini out of nowhere, and Gioli’s block gave Italy yet another set, 29-27, that the Czechs could have won.
Deflated yet again, the Czechs fell behind 5-2 in the third set but thy refused to give up, and when Kristyna Pastulova made sure of a spike by smashing it straight down to level the set at 22-22 luck finally went the Czech Republic’s way as their spike rolled off the net into the open court for set point at 24-23. This time they took it, 25-23, as Plchotova blocked an Italian spike.
Frustrated to still be on court, Italy lost focus early in the fourth set and although the Czechs let the Italians back into it on more than one occasion it was a more confident Czech side that made sure of the fourth set, 25-22, after a monstrous hit by Havlickova.
Italy surged ahead 6-3 in the deciding fifth set thanks to Valentina Arrighetti’s ace. But she netted the next serve, and the Czechs rebounded to go up 11-9, and 13-10. Extra effort by Cristina Barcellini, fresh off the bench, closed it to 13-11, and a block made it 13-12. On an anxious match point, Ortolani saved a block of her spike, and later put another one away to keep Italy alive. They then tied the scores at 14-14, and the Czechs took the lead on a deflection. Piccinini crushed a spike to level at 15-15 and Italy nearly made a miraculous save off a ricochet, but the Czechs finally seized the match on Gioli’s long miss.