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MATCH INFO

Serbia edge USA 3-1 to pick up first win in World Grand Prix Finals


Milena Rasic spikes against USA on Thursday

 Sapporo, Japan, August 29, 2013 – Serbia had to fight hard to overcome USA 3-1 (25-23, 20-25, 25-18, 25-23) in the Final Round of the FIVB World Grand Prix at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center on Thursday.

Serbia improved to 1-1 while defending champions USA dropped to 0-2.

Jovana Brakocevic scored 22 points for Serbia while teammate Brankica Mihajlovic had 20. For USA, Kelly Murphy top-scored with 23 points.

Serbia had nine blocking points – including five by captain Maja Ognjenovic – while the Americans had seven. Serbia had the edge in service points, seven to six.

USA’s Kelly Murphy landed two early bombs to give her team a boost but Serbia’s Brankica Mihajlovic got into a good groove with four clean kills in the first phase of the match and Serbia were five points ahead at the first technical timeout. USA coach Karch Kiraly called a timeout when his team fell six points back at 11-5 and the Americans dug in well in response, moving to within two points at 14-12 when Serbia coach Zoran Terzic called his players off court. Two big thumps by Mihajlovic gave Serbia a three-point advantage at the second TTO but the Americans kept fighting back and got to within a point on six occasions. They almost completed an impressive comeback after saving three setpoints, but Milena Rasic shut the door with a convincing shot down the middle that gave Serbia a 1-0 lead.

The second set started much as the first had ended with the Americans very much equal to their Serbian opponents. Mihajlovic kept pumping away at the net but the Americans were defending with much more conviction, which, in turn, helped their attack. Kimberly Hill landed two kills and Lauren Gibbemeyer made a great block on Jovana Brakocevic that put USA ahead for good at 13-12. Jenna Hagglund came in and delivered two service aces that helped move the Americans into a four-point lead at 17-13 and they never really looked in danger after that. A Hill ace – with Serbia libero Suzana Cebic again the unlucky recipient – brought setpoint and Kristin Hildebrand blocked Mihajlovic to end the set and even the match at 1-1.

USA had the early advantage in the third set but some crunching kills by Brakocevic kept Serbia in touch. The Serbian then came up with two aces as her team moved four points ahead at 12-8. Kiraly called timeouts at 10-8 and 14-9 to try and get his team back on track but the Americans fell six points back at 17-11 after two kills by Mihajlovic. A couple of smashes by USA captain Hildebrand kept the Americans alive and Serbia coach Zoran Terzic called a timeout when the gap narrowed to three points at 20-17. Serbia regained their composure and Mihajlovic brought setpoint with a monster hit down the middle before Nicole Fawcett sent a shot wide, giving Serbia a 2-1 lead in the match.

Serbia got nice blocks from Maja Ognjenovic and Milena Rasic early in the fourth set but the Americans came back with good shots from Regan Hood and Hildebrand, and an ace by Gibbemeyer as they took the lead for the first time at 13-12. No team could get more than a point ahead until 21-21 when a good serve by Brakocevic set up an easy shot for Natasa Krsmanovic to put Serbia 23-21 ahead. Two matchpoints came after a neatly placed tipover from Brakocevic, and Serbian captain Ognjenovic finished things off with a classy first-time tipover at the net.

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