Ningbo, August 22, 2007 - Six-time title winners Brazil, Italy and the Netherlands snatched opening wins at the 2007 FIVB World Grand Prix final round here on Wednesday.
The South Americans, who compiled a ruthless 8-1 record after three weeks' preliminaries, snapped Poland's six match winning steak with a 25-21, 25-21 and 25-17 victory at the Beilun Sports and Arts Center.
Castro Sheilla had 11 kills to lead Brazil with 15 points and Pequeno Paula added 11.
It was hotly contested early in the match and Paula led a 3-0 run to level the score at 10-all. Then the Poles pulled away at 14-11 and forced a Brazilian TO. After the TO, the Brazilians made less mistakes and Poland appeared absent-minded, allowing the South Americans to pull within 17-16 and finally make it 18-18.
Then the Brazilians started to dominate on the net while Poland had trouble in attacking, with Skowronska-Dolata, Eleonora Dziekiewicz and Zuzanna Efimienko being stuffed on several occasions.
It was Poland again that hit top gear first in the second set, leading 8-6 at the first TTO. However, Brazil started to show what it takes to be six-time winners of the tournament, overtaking the lead at 10-9 and never looked back before clinching the set 25-21.
Poland stayed within 8-7 early in the third set, but Brazil just found their range and demonstrated the awe-inspiring blocking skills to enlarge the lead to 18-11 and wind up the set and the match at 25-17 without a hitch.
“We worried about the match against Poland because they were on a six-match winning streak,” said Brazil coach Jose Roberto Guimaraes. “Poland is growing fast recently and among the strongest teams in the world now.”
“Our serving is getting better and better throughout the match and most of them threatened Poland defense. In the third set, we also did a good job in setting and blocking,” he added.
Russia's hopes of landing their fourth title at the FIVB Grand Prix Finals were dented after they surrendered to Italy 25-18, 25-17, 23-25 and 25-17 in the first round of the six-team round-robin tournament.
After 7-all in the first set, Italy started to take an upper hand to pull away while Russia were never into their game, making too many unforced errors before losing at a shameful 25-18 slump.
Following another lopsided set, won by Italy 25-17, the third set saw a recovering Russian team, with Yulia Sedova and Ekaterina Gamova sparkling to fire the team 6-2 up and forcing Italy off for a TO.
The Italians fought back strongly, but Russia did well enough to hold the lead to 24-20. Though Italy beat off three set points, Russia converted on the fourth to level one set back at 25-23.
In the fourth set, Italy never allowed the world champions any chance, leading 8-4 and 16-9 at the first and second TTO to win through at 25-17.
“I feel happy for the team as we win the game at last,” said Italy head coach Massimo Barbolini. “We will have another tough match tomorrow and we will play every match like it is the only match.”
Taismary Aguero of Italy scored on 17 of her 35 spiking attempts to finish with game-high 22 points.
“They played very well and won the match even when they missed some key members,” said Russia’s Italian coach Giovanni Caprara. “We had some problems in defense and we should improve that.”
In the last match of the day, the Netherlands outlasted the host China 28-26, 26-24, 23-25, 23-25 and 15-8.
China rallied from two sets down to level it at 2-2, but the Netherlands raced to an 8-3 lead in the tiebreaker and never looked back.
China coach Chen Zhonghe after the match said: “My players played hard, it was not easy for them. We were outplayed in many aspects. We had ups and downs in the match and failed to snatch the key points. The main problem came from blocking.
Besides, our younger players are not experienced enough. The veteran players are in poor form due to injuries.”
"FOLLOW ME" by Andrea Zorzi
Andrea Zorzi, a former world champion who is now cooperating with the FIVB as a freelance journalist and technical commentator, was continuing his “Follow me” journey in Ningbo with a video interview to Polish player Skowronska and one commentary by him to be uploaded to the FIVB official website on Wednesday. The link is on the FIVB home page.