Serbia and Montenegro celebrate
October 31, Nagoya: Serbia and Montenegro dealt defending champions Italy an almighty upset in their opening game of the 2006 World Championships.
The Balkan side, making their first appearance in the tournament since 1978, shocked the title holders by racing into a two set lead.
The Italians pulled a set back, but it was not enough to stop a determined Serbia and Montenegro from recording a historic 25-18, 25-22, 19-25, 27-25 victory.
Italy showed their defensive strength right from the off, with towering blocks from Elisa Togut and Sara Anzanello.
The champions' attacking prowess was also plain to see with spikes from Francesca Piccinini, but Serbia and Montenegro were by no means admiring bystanders in the opening exchanges.
Captain Vesna Citakovic and Jelena Nikolic gave as good as they got, driving the eastern Europeans into a 16-14 first set lead.
Italian coach Massimo Barbolini then called a time-out as his side fell further behind, and setter Eleonara Lo Bianca immediately responded with an outstanding tip over with her back to the net.
But Serbia and Montenegro maintained the pressure with spikes from Citakovic, and further frustrated the champions by taking the first set 25-18.
The Italians, stung by suddenly finding themselves behind in their opening match, opened up a narrow lead in the second set.
But mammoth spikes by Nikolic and Ivana Djerisilo kept Serbia and Montenegro in touch, before a precision lob to the baseline by Maja Ognjenovic gave them a 15-14 lead.
A time-out at 20-18 down momentarily reinvigorated the Italians, but the champions found themselves in real trouble as Serbia and Montenegro reached set point.
Captain Simona Rinieri-Dennis was unable to return the Serbia and Montenegro attack, and the Balkan side took a two set lead.
Francesca Piccinini then began to exert more influence on the game as Italy tried to save the match in the third set.
Serena Ortolani was also scoring points, but a huge block by Anja Spasojevic reminded the champions that Serbia and Montenegro were not going to surrender their lead easily.
Nevertheless, Italy raced into a 21-13 lead, and clawed their way back into the match by taking the third set 25-19.
Serbia and Montenegro began the fourth set determined that they would not allow Italy to gain momentum, and headed into the first TTO with an 8-4 advantage.
Both sides traded big hits, with Spasojevic in inspired form for Serbia and Montenegro, and Piccinini relentless with her wing spikes for the Italians.
Serbia and Montenegro failed to take advantage of four set points, but with the opportunity of a historic win so close within reach, a frantic block at the net by two players sealed the victory.