Bangkok, Thailand, August 14, 2009 – Tall and towering Russia played a tough match against the USA before outclassing the newly-formed rivals with a dramatic 3-1 (25-21 26-24 19-25 25-17) victory on their first match in the World Grand Prix preliminaries Pool I at the Keelawes I Gymnasium on Friday.
Against FIVB world ranked No.2 USA, world champions and three-time winners Russia fielded established star spikers led by veteran Ekaterina Gamova, while the two-time winners USA was strengthened by experienced Nancy Metcalf and Stacy Sykora. Both players featured in the Beijing Olympic Games where their team claimed a well-earned second place.
It was a close battle between the two giants. USA narrowly led 8-6 at the beginning, thanks largely to the devastating left-hand of captain Metcalf’s spectacular spikes at the net. Russia got their act together with the 202cm-tall Gamova penetrating the American defence with her exceptional mid-court spikes. At 19-19, Russia moved ahead 24-20 when Tatiana Kosheleva used her height advantage to spike devastatingly at the post. Metcalf saved one set point for the US before Kosheleva ended the American’s challenge in the first set with a powerful spike.
The US tried hard to make amends in the second set. They regrouped and fared well with solid defence and aggressive spikes to open a commanding lead at 10-5. However, Russia bounced back mightily to tie the set at 12-12 and continued that great form to narrowly lead 13-12. Alexis Crimes was soon behind another US comeback after she scored three straight points from her well-placed serves, however Russia never gave up. Taking the height advantage over the net, Russia, whose height average is 187cm, blocked effectively and spiked powerfully to win the see-saw set by two points.
The US improved their tactics in the third set, seizing the chance when Russia started to become more prone with unforced mistakes before Russia came back much stronger in the fourth set, foiling USA’s determined attempts to fight back. With such form, it was no surprise to Russia run out winners 25-17.