Brazil captain Fabiana hits the ball past Kristyna Pastulova in their teams' five-set thriller
Hamamatsu, Japan, October 30, 2010 – Brazil outlasted the Czech Republic in a thrilling five-set Pool B match (22-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-20, 15-9) at Hamamatsu Arena in Japan on Saturday.
After two hard-fought sets with several lead changes, the Czechs found gaps in the Brazil defence at crucial junctures to win the third set. But backed by an infectious samba band and boisterous crowd, Brazil survived a tough fourth set and hung on to win the fifth 15-9.
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In the opening set, the Czechs took early leads of 6-3 and 8-5 on strong blocking. Thunderous spikes from both wings by Jaqueline tied the match at nine-all, igniting the pro-Brazil crowd in Hamamatsu, which has a large Brazilian-Japanese population. The Czechs regained the lead by pounding a ball off Thaisa's arm, but Brazil quickly blocked back for 10-all.
With drums beating in the stands and the crowd chanting "Bra-sil, Bra-sil", the teams kept exchanging the lead until Brazil went ahead 18-16 after a great dig by Natalia and a lucky drop over the net. Fabi's attempt to save a ball near the press table went out, and the Czechs evened the match at 18-all. Although Sheila quickly put Brazil 20-18 up by smacking a spike straight down, the Czechs answered back with five straight points for a 23-20 lead. A shrewd tip by Aneta Havlickova and a spike by Kristyna Pastulova tied up the first set 25-20.
The samba band sought to stir their team and Brazil responded by roaring ahead 7-3 after incisive spikes by Natalia, Sheilla and Jaqueline. The South Americans stretched the margin to 10-4 after Natalia's inspiring one-arm save, and forced a Czech timeout at 16-7. Havlickova's attack narrowed the gap to 18-13 and after Fabiana's spike made it 20-15, the Czechs replied with four straight points to 20-19. A flurry of reflex saves by the Czechs could not reap a key point at 21-19, however, and Brazil held on to win 25-22 on Thaisa's angled thrust.
In the third set, Jiri Siller's team took a 10-6 lead after Jaqueline slipped on a dig and misplayed a set. Although spikes by the same player and Thaisa narrowed the deficit to 10-8, a contested call made it 11-8, and Helena Havelkova's spike and block extended the Czechs' advantage to 13-9. Brazil won a vigorous rally to inch back to 14-12, and Fabiana found a hole in the well-organised opposition defence to make it 15-13. Despite Brazil substitute Sassa blessing herself for good luck, the Czech spikers were finding weaknesses deep in the backcourt, and the Europeans moved 20-16 in front. With Havelkova's finger-popping block it was 22-17, and another deep spike made it 23-18. Sheilla served four in a row for Brazil as the Czech attackers aimed too deep but a heartbreaking net serve gave the Europeans the ball back and they held on to win 25-23.
Into the fourth set and Brazil's attack was struggling against a wall of three Czech blockers. Yet Jose Roberto Guimaraes's team hit back from 5-4 down to go 8-5 in front. Brazil altered their attack with softer tips and spikes over the wall and they were now 12-6 ahead. Pastulova again found a target deep in the backcourt to close the gap to 14-10 but two right-wing attacks then went off Czech blockers out of bounds to extend Brazil's lead to 18-14. Thaisa's one-handed flick kept them ahead at 22-19, and with Sarka Barborkova mishandling a serve and spike, Brazil forced a fifth set by winning 25-20.
Natalia's drop-shot ace gave Brazil an early 6-4 lead, which the Czechs quickly evened at 6-6. Brazil won two dramatic rallies to go ahead 11-8 and when a contested call went their way, it was 13-9. Natalia's tap and Fabiana's block finally gave the Brazilians a 15-9 win in the best match of the pool so far. Brazil will face another tough opponent, the Netherlands, on Sunday while the Czech Republic will play Puerto Rico.