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FIVB World Grand Prix 2006
Match Description
Cuba spoil Italy's homecoming

Cuba's Rosir Calderon cuts a path through the Italian defence

 Reggio Calabria, Italy, September 7, 2006: Cuba gatecrashed Italy's homecoming party by beating the Azzurre 3-1 in Pool A on Thursday night.
 Cuba had defeated Italy by the same score in qualifying in Chinese Taipei, and took this one 26-24, 19-25, 25-23, 25-23 to stay alive in the Final Six after losing 3-1 to China the previous evening.
 Cuba started to put some daylight between the teams midway through the first set, thanks to some crisp, angled spiking on the left side from Rosir Calderon and Yumilka Ruiz.
 The Italians could not find the same attacking momentum, and head coach Marco Bonitta made a flurry of changes to try and turn the red tide.
 Cuba recovered from 8-6 down at the first TTO to lead 16-13 at the second, and some wild spiking from Italy left them trailing 18-14 and needing a TO.
 Francesca Piccinini began Italy's comeback with a crashing winner through the middle, and the same player had the crowd roaring shortly after with another bullet from the left following some agile defence by the Azzurre.
 With Cuba trailing 23-22, and the crowd whistling, Nancy Carrillo served into the net to give Italy two set points, but on both occasions the livewire Ruiz denied them, 24-24.
 A block by Yenisey Gonzalez gave Cuba set point at 25-24, and they wrapped it up 26-24 when Piccinini fired long.
 The Cubans were clearly fired up and in the mood, none more so than Daimi Ramirez, and Italy needed to step it up in the second set and match their intensity and dynamism.
 Captain Simona Rinieri-Dennis joined forces with Elisa Togut and Sara Anzanello to form a formidable unit, and Anzanello brought up the second TTO with a delicate drop-shot to give her team a five-point cushion, 16-11.
 The action was fast and furious, with the teams trading blistering spikes and never-say-die defence, and the Cubans, always with a five-point and sometimes six-point deficit, just would not let Italy get away.
 An Italian victory was inevitable, though, and it came after Piccinini brought up set point at 24-19 and Cuban confusion at the net did the rest, 25-19.
 In the third set, a mighty winner on the right by Togut was matched by a venomous jump-serve from Carrillo, and another spectacular effort from Calderon carried Cuba to the second TTO with a three-point advantage.
 At 22-22, another magnificent jump serve from Carrillo nudged Cuba ahead and prompted an Italian TO, and the Azzurre returned to block Ruiz and then make more changes to their line-up.
 But it was middle blocker Gonzalez who had the last word, turning back Togut's effort to end the set 25-23 and have the Cuban bench jumping for joy.
 While the spectators caught their breath at the start of the fourth set, the players didn't, and the match resumed at a frenetic pace. At 7-7, Paola Paggi brought up the first TTO with a dashing spike into space running round an astute set from Eleonora Lo Bianco.
 But Cuba's serve, notably from Carrillo and Liana Mesa, was on fire, as was Ruiz, pumping out the points on the left to give Cuba a three-point lead at the second technical break. Calderon followed the example in a flash of dazzling red.
 Italy responded through Paggi and Anzanello at the net, but Cuba had too many aces, notably Calderon, who finished the match 25-23 after a lengthy delay as the coaches disputed a ruling.