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FIVB World Grand Prix 2006
 
Match Description
 
Azzurre take bronze medal
 

Italy blocked out the Cuban onslaught

 Reggio Calabria, Italy, September 10, 2006: Italy started and finished strongly to beat Cuba 3-2 and win the bronze medal at the 2006 FIVB World Grand Prix on Sunday.
 The Italians took the first two sets 25-17, 25-15 but Cuba fought back in spectacular style to win the next two 25-23, 25-23 and force the tie-break.
 On their second match point, captain Simona Rinieri-Dennis finished the match 15-11 to spark wild celebrations at the Palacalafiore.
 Italy won the first set comfortably 25-17, as the Cuban attack failed to spark.
 The Cubans relied heavily, too much, in fact, on Rosir Calderon, and the Italian block responded accordingly. Daimi Ramirez on the right wing was crying out for more action, and she sent some sizzling winners across court when given the chance.
 Italy, though, looked slicker in all departments. Paola Paggi, who has had an excellent tournament for "Le Azzurre", scored two consecutive points to force a Cuban TO when they fell behind 18-13, and captain Simona Rinieri-Dennis was always a threat on the left, going head to head with the fiery Ramirez.
 Yumilka Ruiz, Nancy Carrillo and Calderon all made extravagant mistakes in attack, and both Calderon and Ruiz were substituted during the first set.
 With libero Monica De Gennaro in her best form, the Cubans could not keep up and surrendered the first set by eight points.
 The Italians looked more motivated and determined than Cuba, and led 8-5 and 16-10 at the two technical breaks in the second set. Elisa Togut and Francesca Piccinini kept the points coming, whereas Carrillo and Yenisey Gonzalez were unable to make nuch headway at the net.
 With the second set slipping away 19-12, Cuba called their second TO. Yaima Ortiz responded with a couple of blistering winners from the left, but "Le Azzurre" had the second set in the bag. Fittingly, Togut finished it with a delicate drop-shot into space at the front of the Cuban court, 25-15.
 Some powerful jump serves from Carrillo rocked Italy at the start of the third set, and a flashing Ruiz spike from the left helped take Cuba to the first TTO with a two-point lead, 8-6.
 The Cubans had found a spark and now began to crackle. Ramirez, Liana Mesa and Carrillo all produced some sharp, clean winners to open up a five-point lead at the second technical break, 16-11, but the Italian block tightened up and they pulled level 16-16.
 From 23-23, Cuba won the next two points to make the match score 2-1, the last point coming when Piccinini fired long.
 Not wanting another five-setter, Italy set about repairing the damage in the fourth set, and led 8-6 at the first TTO and then 10-6. Paggi was more prominent at the net, and Piccinini and Martina Guiggi both scored with clever drop-shots over the Cuban block.
 An ace from Mesa carried Cuba to the second TTO with a 16-14 lead, but Italy came back to move ahead 20-18.
 Trailing 22-20, Cuba strung together four straight points, the last one another magnificent jump serve ace from Carrillo to bring up set point. Although Sara Anzanello saved the first one with a booming winner at the net, there was nothing Italy could do to stop Ruiz closing out the fourth frame 25-23 as she rose and spiked athletically on the left, the ball searing between the blue shirts.
 The blocking of both teams was the outstanding feature of the early part of the tie-break, which Italy led 8-7 at the turnaround after some hesitant play by the Cubans at the net.
 Togut brought Italy closer with a powerful winner down the middle, and then another from the right, before a mistake by Carrillo gave Italy match point at 14-10. After Cuba had saved one, captain Rinieri-Dennis finished the job on the right wing, and the gymnasium erupted with a stirring rendition of the Italian national anthem.