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World champs Russia kick off Grand Prix with 3-1 win over Cuba

Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, August 5, 2011 – World champions Russia kicked off their 2011 FIVB World Grand Prix campaign with a magnificent come-from-behind 3-1 (24-26, 25-18, 25-23, 25-20) victory over Cuba in Pool B at the Nakhon Pathom Gymnasium on Friday.

The world No. 5 team used their height advantage to attack Cuba aggressively and take an early 7-4 lead, with 202-cm Ekaterina Gamova's sharp cross-court spikes proving effective. World No. 8 Cuba clawed their way back, penetrating the Russian defence with fast spikes to catch up at 9-9 and cruise into a 21-13 lead. Russian head coach Vladimir Kuzyutkin asked for time-out to improve his side's erratic play. His decision bore fruit and his players came back with some deadly attacks and solid blocking to score six straight points and narrow the gap to 19-21. But Gamova hit wide at the end and Cuba took the opening set 26-24.

2011 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix
August 5-28

The Russians regained their composure in the second set and Gamova was once again the backbone of the team, spiking spectacularly and blocking well. Cuba tried hard to refrain from the unforced mistakes shown earlier in the set but could not match the mighty attack from Russia, who clinched the set 25-18.

The third set was a thriller, with Cuba getting their act together to lead by two at the first technical timeout. However, it was the Russians who started to produce the goods. With Gamova and tough attacker Nataliya Goncharova unleashing a barrage of powerful spikes, Russia regrouped and bounced back to catch their rivals at 19-19. From then on, both sides took turns leading, but Russia had enough to hold off Cuba and snatch the hard-fought set 25-23.

Russia remained strong technically and tactically in the fourth set, which they led 8-4 initially. The Cubans fielded the three players who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games – Yanelis Santos, Rosanna Giel and Yusidey Sillie – and their determination almost paid off, only losing out when Russia roared back to win the set 25-20 and with it the match.


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