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Italy outlast the Dutch in gruelling five-setter

Manon Flier was the star performer for the Netherlands, scoring 35 points against Italy

Hamamatsu, Japan, October 30, 2010- Italy overcame the Netherlands in a gruelling five-set match (18-25, 25-21, 25-13, 26-28, 15-12) on the second day of Pool B action at the 2010 FIVB Women's World Championship at Hamamatsu Arena on Saturday.
In a high-quality tussle lasting more than two hours, the Dutch showed surprising cohesion for a team with a 20-year-old setter, Laura Dijkema, and grabbed a one-set lead from the fancied Italians. But Italy's hustle plays created good breaks that helped them overcome early deficits in both the second and third sets. The Netherlands fought off two match points en route to winning a dramatic fourth set but in the decisive fifth, Italy's superior firepower made just enough of a difference in a match that either team could have won. 

FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 official page

A captivating rally at 3-3 set the tone for this much-awaited contest, with the Netherlands repelling a fierce Italian attack that Massimo Barbolini's charges eventually won to take the lead. The Oranje appeared in command leading 22-16 before Italy fought back with Valentina Arrighetti serving to earn a point and Eleonora Lo Bianco then setting up a Serena Ortolani spike on the right wing. Yet the Netherlands held back the tide with some solid blocking, and Caroline Wensink wrapped up the set 25-18 with a cross-court spike catching Italy off-guard.

After an even start to the second set, Manon Flier's soaring leap and spike from the backcourt sparked a run of four straight points for the Netherlands, who led 13-10. Italy dug themselves out of trouble with spikes from Simona Gioli, Arrighetti and Antonella Del Core, before Dijkema hit a laser down the middle to restore the Netherlands' lead at 16-15. But the tide then turned with the Dutch letting a Del Core serve slip through the middle and Flier tripping before a spike. Italy duly moved 20-17 ahead and closed in on the set. They found a formula for success – feeding the right wing where their spikers hammered balls off Dutch hands and out of bounds – and the set was theirs at 25-21.

In the third set, the Netherlands built a 5-0 cushion as the youthful setter Dijkema belied her years. Although Italy cut the deficit to 7-6, Avital Selinger's team remained in front until the latter stages of the set. With the Dutch leading 17-14, Lo Bianco dug out a ball and Gioli's miraculous one-handed windmill save from the backcourt won a key point. Lo Bianco's nifty serve then caught the line to inch Italy within a point of their opponents. The Dutch replied as Ingrid Visser smashed two mid-net spikes straight down but a missed spike then allowed Italy to move 24-22 in front. Down a set-point, the Netherlands brought on their experienced setter Kim Staelens but Italy nailed the set shut at 25-23.

Fighting to stay alive, the Dutch went ahead in the fourth set at 8-3 and then 11-8. Italy recovered to make it 13-12 before Flier's blast from backcourt levelled the scores once more. Flier then fooled Italy with a clever placement for a 19-17 lead but Italy ran off four straight points to 21-19. With the tension mounting, Gioli took an easy chance to set up match point only for the Netherlands to hold on with a Maret Grothues spike. Italy returned to the right wing for Ortolani's clean winner for another match point but again the Dutch refused to die, and Flier and Visser blocked down a spike. After Ortolani missed a cross-court spike from the right wing, Chaine Staelen's emphatic spike earned the Dutch the set at 28-26.

In the deciding fifth set, Lo Bianco's diving dig set up a spike to give Italy a 9-5 lead, as their power and experience wore down the Dutch. Although two Italian unforced errors restored the Netherlands' hopes, Chaine Staelens also ticked the net as Italy moved 12-7 in front. With Flier serving, the Dutch reduced the deficit to 12-9 but in the end, Lo Bianco's ability to find a variety of spikers with openings proved pivotal as Italy claimed a 15-12 win, and with it the match.
Italy are next in action against Kenya, while the Netherlands face Brazil on Sunday.

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