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Italy save four matchpoints before beating USA 3-2

Italy saved four matchpoints before beating USA

 Sapporo, Japan, August 31, 2013 – Italy saved four matchpoints before edging USA 3-2 (19-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-18, 16-14) on the fourth day of the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center on Saturday.

It was Italy’s first win of this year’s Finals, while defending champions USA fell to 0-4. Both were out of the running for the title following losses in the opening three days.

Valentina Diouf had a match-high 31 points for Italy, while USA were led by Kristin Hildebrand with 18 points.

The teams were level on blocking points with 12 each, while USA had the edge in service points 6-2. 

Before Saturday’s match, USA had won their last five World Grand Prix matches against Italy.

Italian captain Martina Guiggi got in two good early hits and a block on Kelly Murphy as Italy took a slight lead in the first set. But a good block by Alisha Glass on Indre Sorokaite brought USA level at 7-7 and they went on a five-point run before Italy coach Marco Mencarelli called a timeout. Kimberly Hill got in a couple of good shots as USA moved into a 16-9 lead at the second technical timeout. Italy put the brakes on at 17-10 with successive blocks by Valentina Diouf and Carolina Costagrande and a spike by Diouf, prompting a timeout by USA coach Karch Kiraly. Mencarelli called his players off at 20-13 after a couple of errors but his team were too far back to change the course of the set. Murphy popped up with two good spikes to finish off the set and put USA 1-0 up.

Italy once again took a slight lead in the second set and, helped by a successful video challenge and an ace by Caterina Bosetti, were two points up at the first TTO. The combination of a superb recovery by USA libero Kayla Banwarth, a super set by Glass and a thumping smash by Murphy put USA ahead at 9-8, but the Italians roared back from 10-10 to lead by five at the second TTO. But the loss of setter Noemi Signorile to injury – after a good block made the score 16-12 – upset the Italians’ rhythm. Glass made two good blocks and then came up with a stupendous reaction flick that deflected the ball over the net and into empty territory to even the scores at 20. But errant shots by Murphy and Hill put Italy in the driving seat once again and a solid strike by Costagrande brought up setpoint. A long hit by Kristin Hildebrand then drew the two teams level at 1-1.

Lauren Paolini came into the American lineup for the third set and put her team two points in front with a good spike and a tipover. Diouf responded for Italy but Hildebrand came up with a two big bangs and the Americans were three points up at the second TTO. Two errors later, Mencarelli called a timeout. USA stretched their lead to six points before going off the boil and dropping three straight points. Kiraly called two timeouts as USA’s advantage slipped to one point but they got a break at 23-22 when Italy were called for a double touch. Caterina Bosetti saved one setpoint but Murphy then squeezed a drive past the Italian block and USA were 2-1 up. 

Italy got good contributions from Costagrande and Diouf as they moved into a three-point lead at the first TTO of the fourth set and the Americans didn’t help their cause with errors. Italy were five points up at the second TTO and Kiraly called two more timeouts to try and slow the Italians down. But Costagrande and Diouf kept the pressure on. Diouf brought setpoint with a big hit and Bosetti drew the teams level at 2-2 with a fine block on Nicole Fawcett. 

The Americans were helped by some sloppy Italian play early in the fifth set, including a netted serve by Guiggi and a wide shot by Bosetti, and USA led by four at the turnaround. Murphy then slugged a couple of shots out of bounds and Kiraly called a timeout at 9-7. Bosetti sent her next serve long. A massive block by Murphy on Costagrande made the score 12-8. Murphy sent down an unreturnable serve to bring up four matchpoints for USA and then the Americans blew it. Diouf hit a kill, Hildebrand failed on two spikes and Paolini netted a shot. Bosetti then came up with a block on Murphy and Guiggi blocked Hildebrand for a remarkable win. 

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