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Serbia open with victory over spirited Costa Rica

Costa Rica's Karen Cope is in full flight only to be denied by Serbia's captain Jelena Nikolic at the net

Tokyo, Japan, October 28, 2010 – Bronze medallists four years ago, Serbia began their journey at the FIVB Women's Volleyball World Championship Japan 2010 with a straight-sets win (25-15, 25-18, 25-14) over Costa Rica in the second Pool A match on Friday in Tokyo.

FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 official page

This was the first meeting between Serbia and Costa Rica, ranked ninth and 31st in the world respectively, and middle blocker Natasa Krsmanovic proved the Serbians' main offensive weapon with 12 points while Costa Rica captain Verania Willis matched that score, which represented an incredible 25 per cent of her team’s total tally of 47.

The match started with some outstanding attacking play by both Verania Willis and her Serbia counterpart Jelena Nikolic who fired spike after spike from her favoured left side, giving her team an 8-7 edge going into the First Technical Timeout (FTT). With Brizitka Molnar serving well and Krsmanovic and Jovana Brakocevic complementing Nikolic's attack at the net, Serbia eventually moved out in front at 16-11. Despite some solid attacks from Mariela Quesada and Verania Willis – who is two centimetres shorter and two years younger than her teammate and sister, Angela – Serbia stayed in front, their efforts underscored by Brakocevic's powerful spike that flew off Marie Hadar Smith into the stands to make it 23-14. A Krsmanovic attack led to set point before a beautiful dig by Brakocevic put the ever-dangerous Nikolic at the net for a spike down the centre, giving the set to the girls in blue, 25-15.

Nikolic kept Serbia going strong in the second set, as she threw down a furious spike to collect her fifth point and Serbia's eighth as they led 8-3 heading into the FTT. Yet another Nikolic attack and a service ace out wide by Rasic put Serbia further ahead at 12-3 but Costa Rica mustered a rally to close the gap to 15-11, powered by great attacks by Willis and Paola Ramirez Vargas. For the Costa Ricans, Karen Cope produced a solid defence on a Krsmanovic fireball before Angela Willis made a stubborn block for Costa Rica at the net. Yet Serbia pulled back in front as Molnar drove a kill down the centre to make it 20-13. Even with Serbia ahead, Costa Rica's fighting spirit drew cheers from the crowd with the captain, Verania Willis, dropping bombs at the net and Ramirez Vargas shutting down Nikolic on more than one occasion with blocks. When a great Rasic serve gave Serbia set point, Verania Willis refused to give in, replying with a pair of spikes, but Zoran Terzic’s team took the second set eventually with Maja Ognjenovic setting up Krsmanovic for an attack that made it 25-18.

Serbia again jumped out front in the third, with a formidable spike from out wide by Jovana Vesovic putting them 7-1 up. Nikolic put all her skills on display as she dropped in cheeky tips at the net to make it 9-2, then followed that with a block soon after for 12-2. A powerful serve from Stefana Veljkovic went unreturned, followed by a fierce Krsmanovic spike that sent Serbia into the Second Technical Timeout (STT) on top at 16-6. Despite two successful spikes from Costa Rica's Cope, Serbia were on their way powered by a pair of spikes from Sanja Malagurski. Although Vesovic's match-winning service ace was overruled by the referee, a long service by Cope gave the set (25-14) and the match to Serbia.

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