Italy's Serena Ortolani throws a sponsors' ball into the crowd before the match against Puerto Rico
Hamamatsu, Japan, October 29 - Italy repelled an early challenge from Puerto Rico to run away with an opening-day straight-set victory (25-20, 25-11, 25-18) in Pool B of the FIVB Women's World Championship in Hamamatsu, Japan on Friday.
While underdogs Puerto Rico went in front in the first set behind the blistering serving and spikes of Aurea Cruz, Italy's frontline eventually overpowered them and there was much less for Massimo Barbolini's side to worry about in the remaining two sets.
FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 official page
Italy seemed ready to blow Puerto Rico away when they won the first five points but Carlos Cardona's charges stormed back with six straight points. The Puerto Ricans maintained their challenge thanks to the strong spiking of Cruz, who also tested Italy's receivers with her sky-high tosses and top-spin serves. Puerto Rico held off Italy's attempted surges for a time and remained tied at 17 but the Europeans' greater experience eventually showed through. Eleonora Lo Bianco's service ace gave Italy a 23-19 edge, and they held on to win 25-20.
In the second set, Italy gained an early lead at 4-0 and extended that advantage to 8-2 and 13-3, behind the strong spiking of Simona Gioli. The clever direction of setter Lo Bianco helped them move further in front at 16-5 and 20-7 and, with the Puerto Ricans overpowered at the net, Italy won the set 25-11.
In the third set, Gioli blocked almost everything early on to give Italy a 2-0 lead. Puerto Rico fought back with two points of their own but Lo Bianco's arching set across the court set up a spike for a 3-2 lead for Italy. The Italians slowly built up their lead to 14-9, and they stayed consistently ahead by five points or more, coasting to a 25-18 win.