22-year-old Foluke Akinradewo had 16 kills and seven kill blocks to lead USA to a 3-2 (22-25, 25-19, 30-28, 25-17, 15-13) victory over Brazil in a repeat of the 2008 Beijing Olympic final, where Brazil emerged as the winners.
Giant killers Japan pulled off their second shock win in the six-team round-robin tournament, rallying twice from one set down to tame 2009 FIVB World Grand Champions Cup winners Italy 3-2 (23-25, 25-14, 26-28, 25-20, 17-15). In other action on Friday, China eased past Poland 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-17) to improve to a 2-1 win-loss record.
The Japanese team, who stunned defending champions Brazil in another five-set marathon match on Wednesday, edged past Italy to embrace their second win in the six-team round-robin competition. The two sides battle heatedly in the decisive fifth frame as the scoring difference never exceeded two points. When Japan were leading 16-15, Mai Yamaguchi stopped a spike by Licia Bosetti to seal the victory.
“We are very happy to beat Italy, which has always been a powerhouse in world volleyball,” said Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe. “After we lost to China yesterday, we analyzed our weak points and tried hard to make an improvement today.”
Serena Ortolani scored 23 points and Antonella Del Core added 20 for Italy, but the Europeans had to swallow their second consecutive loss and dropped to 1-2 after handing 29 points to their opponents through errors.
“Sincere congratulations to the Japanese team, they played a very good match,” said Italy head coach Massimo Barbolini. “For our part, we made too many unforced mistakes.”
The United States, who had defeated Poland 3-2 and Italy 3-0 on Day one and Day two, remained the only team with a perfect record and now lead the table with seven points following a hard-fought victory. The fifth set turned out to be a see-saw affair. When the two teams were level at 13-13, Sheilla Castro, who had provided the most of the ammunition in attack for Brazil, served a ball long to award the USA match point before Tom and Bown cooperated to block a Castro spike for the match winner.
“It was a very difficult match. Both teams played hard. There are some great hits, some great rallies. It was very close,” said USA head coach Hugh McCutcheon. “I'm very happy, but we understand that we have a lot to do. Brazil taught us a lot tonight.”
Castro’s 22-point performance in the fascinating match turned out to be in vein as Brazil suffered their second loss in three days. The Brazilians not only had their title hope dashed, but also received a second injury blow in two days. With Marianne Steinbrecher sidelined due to a knee injury sustained on Thursday, her replacement Paula Pequeno was also carried off the court early in the decider on Friday after a shaky landing.
“The game was very close and very balanced. I am impressed by the Americans’ determination,” said Brazil coach Jose Roberto Guimaraes. “But I am proud of my team despite the loss.”
Morally boosted by a 3-1 victory over Japan, the Chinese had no great difficulty defeating Poland in straight sets for their second win in as many days. Following a 24-point performance on Thursday, wing spiker Wang Yimei, for the second night in a row, led the scoring for China with 11 kills, five blocks and three aces.
2010 FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round will enter the fourth day on Saturday with Brazil facing Italy, Japan meeting Poland and China taking on USA.