Ningbo, August 24, 2007 – Uprising European powerhouse the Netherlands marched toward their first FIVB World Grand Prix title with a well-earned five sets victory over three-time defending champions Brazil in the third day of the round-robin Finals here on Friday.
The giant killing run of Avital Selinger’s side continued as the Dutch women stunned Brazil, top finishers from the preliminary round, 19-25, 25-19, 25-23, 23-25 and 15-8 for their third straight win in the Beilun Sports and Arts Center.
On back of tenacious defense and balanced attacks from Manon Flier, Ingrid Visser, Chaïne Staelens and Caroline Wensink, who combined to contribute 66 points, the Netherlands revenged for their consecutive 3-0 losses to Brazil in the preliminaries.
“For us, to win a match against one of the best teams in the world is a great achievement,” said Netherlands coach Avital Selinger. “We were far behind once in the match but finally made it. And I believe if we can play our level, it will be interesting to watch us play.”
Despite his side’s eye-catching performance in the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals, Selinger remained as cool as he had always been.
“Next match is important, we do not think about winning the title,” he said. “We still need to improve our consistency to make top class of the world.”
Both sides made an awkward start in the opening set, but the Brazilians were quicker to wake up and clinch the opener at 25-19.
The Netherlands fought back strongly to take the next two sets and the upper hand early in the fourth, leading 8-6 and 16-14 in the first and second TTO apiece.
Brazil overcame some dicey moments to turn around the match with plummeting spikes from Claudino Fabiana and Castro Sheilla for a 23-22 advantage. The Netherlands managed to save one set point but still slumped to Brazil 25-23.
The Dutch girls made a flying start in the decider, racing up to 7-3 and went on to seal the victory in one hour and 48 minutes.
Later on Friday, a spirited Chinese team battled for five sets to wear down Italy 25-23, 19-25, 25-22, 24-26 and 15-12 for its second win in two days.
Yang Hao converted on 21 of 43 killing attempts to lead China with 25 points. Middle blockers Ma Yunwen and Xue Ming added 16 and 13 points respectively.
After splitting the first two sets with Italy, the Olympic champions built a 20-15 lead in the third thanks to some storming spikes from Yang.
The Italians used a 7-2 run to make it 22-all, but a serving mistake from Taismary Aguero, a Valentina Fiorin spike stopped ice by Ma Yunwen and an attack error cost them the set.
The two teams traded runs in the fourth set before Ma Yunwen had a kill to give China the first match point at 24-23. This time Italy scored three straight points to force the tiebreaker, won by China 15-12.
In Friday’s other action, world champions Russia beat Poland in straight sets, handing the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals debutants the third loss in a row.
The Russian women, who showed battling spirit in winning the five-set thriller against three-time defending champions Brazil on Thursday, had no great trouble brushing aside the off-color Polish team 25-11, 25-22 and 26-24 to improve to a 2-1 record at the six-team round robin tournament.
Coming off a full sets defeat to the host China, Poland went down tamely in the first two sets before struggling hard in the third to erase an early 6-3 deficit for a tie at 9-all.
Then Spikers from both sides hit efficiently, but it was the Russian team that led into the second TTO at 16-15. After the game resumed, the Poles seemed absent-minded, losing two points in a row.
Trailing 18-15, Poland staged a 7-3 run to overtake the lead at 22-21, but Russia held nerves to take five out of the last seven points to claim the set and the match at 26-24.
“After the match played yesterday, it is very hard for us to keep the consistency,” said Poland head coach Marco Bonitta. “Our opponents played on good level.”
Natalia Alimova led Russia with 17 points and Ekaterina Gamova added 16.
With two more rounds remaining, the Netherlands led the race for the title with three wins, followed by Russia and China who both collected two victories and one loss. Italy and Brazil were on a 1-2 record while Poland have yet to record a win.