Brazil, USA, Poland win openers

Castro Sheilla (BRA) spikes against Zhang Ping and Zhou Suhong (CHN)

November 15, 2005 -- Brazil, USA and Poland began their World Grand Champions Cup campaigns on a winning note at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Tuesday. In an opening match worthy of a final, Brazil fought back from two sets down to defeat the defending champions China 3-2; the United States swept Korea 3-0 with an awesome display of power; and Poland came back from 2-1 down in sets to beat battling Japan 3-2 in a five-set thriller. The event began with an epic contest between the top two women's teams in the World.

China, the world No. 1 and reigning Olympic Games champions, against the second-ranked Brazil, who have already scored a major triumph in Japan this year by winning the World Grand Prix Final Round at Sendai in July. China controlled the early stages of the match, and won the first two sets 25-15, 25-17 against a strangely subdued Brazil. But the Canaries can never be written off, and Sheilla Castro (23 points, 20 spikes) and Welissa "Sassa" Gonzaga (20 points, 18 spikes) led the response. Although the teams were locked at 7-7 in the fifth-set tiebreak, Brazil had the momentum and surged ahead to close out the match 15-8 with a Sassa sizzler.
"It's always a difficult game against China and this one was no different," said Brazil's captain, Valeska Menezes. "In the third set we started to concentrate more and mark their most important players. Fortunately everything went smoothly from there on, and our spirit and stamina pulled us through."

In the next match, the United States had too much firepower for Korea, winning in straight sets, 25-20, 25-22, 25-20. Nancy Metcalf top-scored for the Americans with 17 points, including 15 elegant, left-handed spikes. For Korea, the exciting prospect Kim Yeon-Koung scored a team-high 14 points. Kim, a 17-year-old high school student, was Korea's captain and outstanding player at the FIVB Girls' Under-18 World Championship in Macau, China, in July, and made the step up to senior level with little difficulty.

After an opening ceremony, during which FIVB President Dr. Ruben Acosta declared the World Grand Champions Cup open, Japan and Poland completed the first day's action. And what a match! Poland started strongly and won the first set comfortably, before Japan rallied and took the next two with some dazzling attacking which left the Poles in a spin. But the European champions showed their skill and power, taking the fourth set 26-24 and the decider 15-12 on their fifth match point after leading 14-8. Malgorzata Glinka finished the job, smashing through Japan's defence from the right.

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