Tokyo, August 4, 2007: World No. 5 Cuba brushed aside 19th-ranked Kazakhstan 3-0 on the second day of the World Grand Prix preliminary round at Ariake Colosseum on Saturday.
After disposing of NORCECA rivals Dominican Republic on Friday, Cuba improved their win-loss record to 2-0 with a straight forward 25-17, 25-17, 25-14 victory. Kazakhstan, on their Grand Prix debut, dropped to 0-2, and will regard this match as a lesson for the future on the world stage.
Cuba gave Grand Prix rookies Kazakhstan a hard time in the early stages, racing into a 5-0 lead and reaching the first TTO ahead 8-3 with a sizzling ace from Nancy Carrillo.
Daimi Ramirez and Carrillo had both scored points with delicate tip-overs into space in the Kazakh mid-court, showing their rivals there was subtlety as well as power to their game.
Captain Yelena Pavlova had put Kazakhstan's first point on the board, and Olga Grushko scored two consecutive points from 6-1 to stem Cuba's rampant start.
Down 12-5, Kazakhstan changed Olga Karpova for Natalya Rykova, but the new line-up was greeted by an ace from Kenia Carcaces, who had also been prominent on block.
The Cubans were scoring freely, and led 16-7 at the second TTO as the Kazakhs struggled to keep up with the pace and the improvisation of the calypso queens.
Pavlova continued to batter away on the left, and followed up with a sequence of fast and accurate serves that unsettled the Cuban reception and closed the gap to 17-11 to force a Cuba TO.
Despite playing in dazzling white, the Cubans had lost their sparkle; Kazakhstan took heart to move to within four at 18-14. Cuba needed someone to spark them back to life, and Yanelis Santos was the one. Spiking and serving smoothly and efficiently, she put Cuba back on track and they closed out the first frame 25-17 with a Calderon special on the left.
Kazakhstan were determined to keep Cuba in their sights at the start of the second set, but another Santos ace gave the two-time Grand Prix champions an 8-5 advantage at the first TTO.
Karpova and Pavlova both scored out wide for Kazakhstan as they held on, and Olga Nassedkina traded points with Carrillo at the net. Trailing 14-9, Kazakhstan needed a TO to address the ever-improving Cuban block, but the points difference remained at five, 16-11, going into the second TTO.
The serving of Santos set up another run of points, Carcaces in particular feeding off a struggling reception by blasting home a loose ball at the net for 21-12, and a Kazakhstan TO.
A jack-hammer spike from Pavlova had the neutral fans applauding, as did a Karpova winner from an overhead set from Korinna Ishimtseva, but the Cubans had too many points to play with. Yusleini Herrera joined the action down the stretch, and finished the second set 25-17 with an agile tip-over on the left.
In the third set, Carcaces thundered through the Kazakh block for 5-2, and Santos blocked and spiked for 7-2 to underline her all-round skills.
Under pressure from the power spikes, the Kazakhs were caught off guard at the net, enabling Ramirez to push one over to bring up the first TTO 8-3.
Ramirez then blocked Pavlova as they went head to head, only for Nassedkina to do the same on Calderon down the middle as the crowd warmed to the Kazakh spirit.
Pavlova's serving produced two successive aces to close the gap to 13-11, but Carrillo pounced at the net in trademark style to take Cuba into the second TTO ahead 16-12.
With strong serving, notably from Carrillo and Santos, supported by bspeedy attacks down the middle, Cuba were able to steam ahead 23-13. At 24-14, Pavlova fired long to end the match, 3-0 Cuba.