Osaka, Japan, August 8, 2009: Puerto Rico pulled off a stunning upset, beating world champions Russia 3-1 on their sixth match point at Osaka Municipal Central Gym on Saturday afternoon.
Puerto Rico came into the match with a 0-4 record, but outlasted Russia 25-17, 25-22, 22-25, 28-26 to record a massive victory against the European super power.
Russia lost the first two sets but turned it round in the third, only for Puerto Rico to find a second wind and come home on their sixth match point. Russia dropped to 3-2 overall.
Puerto Rico, showing no ill-effects from their 3-0 defeat by Japan the previous evening, started confidently, especially on defence.
In the early stages their digging and covering fended off the heavy Russian artillery, and Aurea Cruz matched fire with fire on spike and with some sizzling jump-serves.
The Russians seemed disturbed at this stiff and spirited resistance, and trailed 8-5 at the first TTO with only flashes of brilliance from Tatiana Kosheleva.
It was developing into an entertaining game of crashing spikes and dynamic defence, as the teams traded points in an open affair.
Cruz blazed through the Russian block on the left for 13-10, and then did the same on the right to keep her team ahead.
She followed up with a fizzing jump-serve that was too spicy for libero Ekaterina Kabeshova, and Puerto Rico led 16-11 at the second TTO on a Russian attack error.
The Puerto Rico block, too, was working well, forcing the Russians to scramble for every point. When Elena Murtazaeva finished off a counter-attack of perfect passing to close the gap to 16-14, Puerto Rico took a TO, still holding a two-point advantage.
The break did them good, and Sarai Alvarez blazed home a fine winner from the right for 18-14, Russia TO. She repeated the treatment on the resumption to give Russia further headaches, and they were struggling to match the pace and intensity of the lively, fired-up Puerto Rico team.
When Olga Fateeva spiked into the net, Russia took their second TO down 22-15.
Ksenia Naumova pushed one into a space on the right to bring Russia closer, only for Sheila Ocasio to pound one through the middle to underline her team's clear superiority at this point.
Alvarez brought up set point at 24-17 with a gem of a winner down the right, and Cruz finished it 25-17 with another piledriver from the left which was only half-blocked and bounced into a huge space in mid-court.
In the second set, Naumova tried to step it up for Russia, but Alvarez was on fire and swinging smoothly to keep the points ticking over.
Although Russia led 8-7 at the first TTO, they were still in first gear and needed to step on the gas to halt the momentum of the Puerto Rico team.
A Sheila Ocasio serve drifted through the Russian defence for an ace, and she followed up with a firmer effort that produced a similar result.
A short set from Vilmarie Mojica proved to be easy pickings for Alexandra Oquendo at the net, and Russia took a TO down 11-8 and lacking rhythm and motivation.
A nifty one-handed set from the alert Mojica enabled Cruz to score with a glorious flowing smash from the left, and Alvarez had no trouble beating the blue block shortly after for 13-10.
Naumova blocked Cruz at the centre of the net to give Russia some respite, and then poked one over to bring her team closer. The Puerto Ricans were still the livelier and the noisier of the teams, though, and took a two-point lead into the second TTO, 16-14.
On the restart, Gamova and Kosheleva began to find some spaces on the Puerto Rico court, and when Russia went ahead 21-20, Carlos Cardona took his team off for a TO.
With two set points at 24-22, Oquendo's serve had too much swerve and the second set belonged to Puerto Rico 25-22, 2-0. Poor serve-reception had marred the end of the set for Russia, and now they had to find the fight and the form for their second five-setter in two days.
In the third set, Naumova helped Russia to the first TTO ahead 8-5 with some well-placed winners from the left, and on the restart Yarimar Rosa's smash was met with a terrific block by Evgeniya Startseva.
Kosheleva drove Russia forward, and the tide appeared to have turned at this point as the fizz had gone out of Puerto Rico. Gamova battered another imperious winner from the left, and followed up with a lusty blow that blew away the defence.
When a Cruz serve found nothing but net, Russia were in command 16-10 at the second TTO.
Fateeva kept up the good work, hammering past the Puerto Rico block on the left, and Kosheleva followed this route for 19-14.
Trailing 21-14, Puerto Rico called their second TO and began to nibble away at the Russian lead. At 24-21, Russia took their second TO in quick succession as set points disappeared one after another, before Gamova finally settled it 25-22. The spectacular ground defence of setter Startseva had played a big part in Russia's ability to tame Puerto Rico.
Now it was Puerto Rico who needed to raise their game, and Alvarez and Cruz tried to do this with some excellent spikes out wide.
When Yulia Sedova rejected an Alvarez spike for a thundering block point, Puerto Rico took a TO down 6-2.
Another Sedova block carried Russia into the first TTO ahead 8-4, and Gamova and Naumova moved them further ahead.
As Cruz tried to lift her team, her fierce spike was met with a stunning one-handed block by Maria Borodakova, but still Russia could not pull away.
Puerto Rico had rediscovered their fire, and their flying ground defence and counter-attack was beginning to trouble the Europeans like it had done in the first two sets.
Gamova fired Russia into a 16-15 lead at the second TTO, but it was Puerto Rico who returned stronger and, with the aid of Russian errors on attack and serve-reception, forged ahead 18-16.
Sheila Ocasio placed a spike into the far corner for 19-17, before Cruz pushed one past the block for 20-17, Russia TO. The world champs returned to score the next three points for 20-20 and send Puerto Rico into a TO.
Cruz took up the challenge and blazed away for 23-21, sending Russia into their second TO of the set, and then brought up three match points at 24-21.
They missed all three on some strong Russian blocking, 24-24, and then two more.
A block by Karina Ocasio on Gamova did it on the sixth match point, 28-26.