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Italy struggle to overcome hosts Thailand

Thailand's Onuma Sittirak leaps to attack the taller Italian blockers as the visitors picked up the win

Bangkok, Thailand, August 15, 2010 - Italy produced a magnificent fight back to pick up a 3-1 (21-25 25-23 25-21 25-20) victory over Thailand in a heart-pounding, hard-fought thriller in their last match of the 2010 FIVB World Grand Prix Preliminary Pool D in Bangkok on Sunday.

Italy did not field their full team in the match against the host side as libero Paola Cardullo injured her ankle while training and Francesca Piccinini, who replaced Cardullo in the position the previous day, was also sick. Lucia Bosetti just came to the right time to fill the empty position.

Thailand, cheered on by the screaming and drum-beating home fans, started strongly. Powerful Onuma Sittirak uncorked a barrage of devastating mid-court spikes to help Thailand match the highly-experienced rivals competitively. It was a see-saw battle where leads changed hands for several times. Leading narrowly at 19-18, Thailand regained their composure. Three key spikers, Onuma, Wilavan Apinyapong and Malika Kanthong, were vital in moving the team ahead. As Onuma completed many kills, including her terrific jump serves, sharp spikes at the post by Malika and Wilavan also put the taller Italian blockers much in trouble. To everyone's amazement, Thailand won the first-set thriller 25-21.

Going down one set, Italy, winners at the last year's FIVB World Grand Champions Cup, tightened their defence and counter-attacked well to take the initial 8-4 lead. Nevertheless, Thailand gradually clawed their ways back to equalise 9-9. From then on, the game became more thrilling. At 20-20, Onuma stretched her hands to smash her way as Thailand advanced 22-21. However, the Italians came back with Serena Ortolani hitting acrobatically from the back court to catch the Thais at 22-22 and move ahead 24-22. Thailand saved one set point before the visitors won a crucial point to claim the set win 25-23.

Italy initially dominated the third set to lead 6-3 before the Thais gathered themselves to bounce back and catch them at 8-8. From then, both sides entertained the large crowd of spectators packing the venue with their exceptional skills. As Italy excelled offensively, the Thai defence was hard to overcome, allowing the two-time European champions tough times scoring. After a thrilling rally, Onuma put the host side in front at 20-19 with her brilliant form. However, Italy foiled the Thais' attacking attempts with blocks and kills. Smashing machine Serena Ortolani spiked from every corner to help Italy draw even at 21-21. The 2002 world champions continued their winning streak to wrap up the set 25-21.

Italy still led Thailand all the way in the fourth set. At 18-14, Italy improved their blocking, giving the Thai attack difficulties to score. Italy stretched the lead to 22-17. Though going all-out, Thailand still found Italy too strong and went down fighting 25-20.

With the win Italy move up to sixth place ahead of the final preliminary round weekend where they travel to Tokyo to take on hosts Japan, the Netherlands and the Dominican Republic. Thailand move to Hong Kong to take on hosts China, USA and Germany.


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