Ningbo, China, August 1, 2009 - Russia held off a strong challenge from the Dominican Republic in a five-set thriller to notch up their second victory at the 2009 FIVB World Grand Prix in Ningbo, China on Saturday.
The six-time world champion, who crushed Korea Friday in straight sets in their World Grand Prix opener, won the hard-fought match 25-21, 25-27, 19-25, 25-11 and 15-10 in the second round of Pool C.
Dominican wing spiker Pena Bethania de De La Cruz led all scorers with 24 points, including an array of 19 kills, while Russian Tatiana Kosheleva was the best scorer of her team with 23 points.
The first set started with a see-saw affair as the teams traded leads until the score stood at 11-9 in favor of the Dominican Republic and after Russian coach Vladimir Kuzyutkin called a time out, his girls scored five points in a row to go ahead 14-11. From there the Russian team never looked back. Pena Bethania de De La Cruz served into the net, handing the first frame to Russia.
The Dominicans went on a roll to start the second set thanks to two powerful spikes from De La Cruz de Pena Bethania and a serve ace from Eve Mejia Lisvel Elisa, forcing Kuzyutkin to call an early timeout with the score at 5-1. At the first TTO, Dominican Republic was leading 8-5 and then stretched the advantage to 14-7. Russia narrowed the gap to three points at the second TTO and leveled at 19-19 after star spiker Ekaterina Gamova was brought on. The Dominican Republic blew two set points (24-23 and 25-24) and converted on third attempt when Russia's Anna Makarova spiked out of bounds.
Russia jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the third set but the Dominican Repulic led by four points at the first TTO. With Pena Bethania de De La Cruz highly efficient in attack, the Dominicans were unstoppable and led as many as 11 points at 22-11. After Kuzyutkin called a time out, Russia reacted quickly to win five points in a row, but finally could not avoid surrendering the set.
The Russians rebounded strongly in the fourth set, establishing an early 8-3 lead by the first TTO. Gamova, dubbed the world's best spiker, showed signs of her prime with a few brilliant spikes to inspire her team to take the lop-sided set.
In the crucial fifth set, Russia maintained its momentum to open with a 3-1 lead. The Dominican Republic managed to level at 6-6 but a series of points followed for Russia thanks to powerful attacks by Gamova. Trailing 11-7, the Dominicans relented and could do nothing to stop an in-form Russia side, who eventually sealed the win at 15-10.