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Serbia end USA's unbeaten run with 3-1 win in Japan

Sanja Malagurski lets fly against USA
 Komaki, Japan, August 14, 2011 – Serbia ended USA's unbeaten run in the 2011 FIVB World Grand Prix on Sunday with a 3-1 (25-12, 17-25, 25-23, 25-15) win at Park Arena Komaki in Japan. The Americans dropped to 5-1 and Serbia improved their record to 4-2.

Jovana Brakocevic led Serbia with 22 points followed by Sanja Malagurski with 14. USA's top scorer was Foluke Akinradewo with 12 points, followed by Megan Hodge with 11. 

2011 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix
August 5-28

The last time Serbia and USA met – just a week ago – the Americans won in five sets and it looked to be going the same way on Sunday before Serbia grabbed control of the match. After their scintillating performance against Japan on Saturday, the Americans struggled to find the same level of intensity against Serbia. After dropping to 6-11 early in the first set, coach Hugh McCutcheon pulled his players off court to try and get them back on track, but they were seven points back at the second technical timeout and McCutcheon gave them another talking to at 9-18. But the Serbians were defending well and looked confident; things were going their way and nothing was going right for the Americans. Destinee Hooker netted a serve to hand setpoint to Serbia and a tipover from Brakocevic put Serbia 1-0 up.

The Americans got back on track at the start of the second set with Hooker sending down a couple of hefty spikes, but the Serbians matched them through 8-8. USA pulled away to 13-10, with good work by Akinradewo and a service ace by Hodge extended their lead to four points at the second technical timeout. Great American defence kept them on top and Hooker had three points toward the end. Setpoint came on a spike by Hodge and a neat crosscourt hit by Hooker made the score 1-1.

Things were tight early on in the third set. Logan Tom came up with a good block on the big-hitting Brakocevic and added a thunderous spike to bring the scores to 9-9. But Brakocevic had more thunderbolts in her armory and she helped Serbia stretch their lead to 16-13 at the second TTO. Three soft points later, Serbia coach Zoran Terzic hauled his players off court. Brakocevic dragged her team back again with another piledriver and after Sanja Malagurski did likewise – making the score 20-18 – McCutcheon called a timeout. He called another when a wide hit by Hooker dropped his team to 20-23.  But a nice hit by Milena Rasic gave Serbia four setpoints. After dropping two of them, Terzic called his players off, only to see them drop the next point as well. But then Hooker had a horrorshow moment as she mis-hit her serve into the net, putting Serbia 2-1 up. 

Brakocevic continued her assault at the start of the fourth set and put Serbia 8-4 up at the first TTO with a delicate tipover. The Serbs were looking confident and stretched their lead to 16-8 at the second TTO aided by a number of American errors. A slick tipover by Malagurski and a great block by Rasic on Tom stretched Serbia's lead to 10 points. As usual, the Americans kept competing, but with Serbia on song, there was only going to be one winner. Brakocevic brought up setpoint with a huge hit and Serbia clinched the match with a fine block by Natasa Krsmanovic on Tom.


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