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23/09/2011 22:32
Italy delight home crowd with straight-set win over Croatia
2011 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Women

Monza, Italy, September 23, 2011 - Defending champions Italy delighted their fans with a straight-set win in today's second match of Pool B in Monza PalaIper at the 2011 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Women.

Capitain Lo Bianco and her teammates began their European Championship campaign against Croatia with no difficulties winning 25-19, 25-20, 25-19 in today's second match of Pool B in Monza PalaIper, Italy.

Best player of the match was Italian middle-blocker Simona Gioli (also best scorer of the match with 15 points) and opposite Jelena Alajbeg for Croatia.

During the first set Croatia fought gamely but could not deal with the power game and experience of the last two European Championships winners. The match began with an easy play for the "squarda azzurra" who didn't give Damir Jurko's team the possibility to react. Francesca Piccinini closed the set out 25-19.

In the second set the hosts took an early 8-5 lead at the first technical timeout. The Croatians tried to catch up with Alajbeg on fire scoring three consecutive points. But Italy moved ahead thanks to the strong serves of Antonella Del Core and Simona Gioli to end the set 25-20.

The third set began with an easy play for Italy thanks to Valentina Arrighetti's blocks which kept the home squad on their way. The difference between the two teams became bigger with a great game of Carolina Costagrande, Francesca Piccinini and Arrighetti. The scoreboard moved to 16-12 at the second technical timeout. This was enough for the talented Italians to pull through.

Italian coach Massimo Barbolini: "Tonight's goal was to play well. We did a good job at serving and our blocking was brilliant. Although, the match was not easy. The Croatian dared to risk but we could maintain our level, while our attack play improved." 

Italian wing-spiker Francesca Piccinini: "This was a delicate match, since it was the first one of the championship. We played a good game, thus getting off on the right foot. But we do not have to underestimate the opponent. Still, we haven't used 100% of our potential."

Croatian coach Jurko Damir: "Congratulations to Italy. The match was not that bad since it was the first match here. Italy opened the set with a four or five point lead, that’s why it was difficult for us to catch up. We may have some chances versus Turkey and Azerbaijan."

Croatian captain Maria Poljak: "The bad impression of tonight's game mirrors the lack of team spirit, since the team started practicing together only three weeks ago. We are now aiming at enforcing our team spirit. This match could not have been played any better but we are positive for the future games facing Turkey and Adzerbaijan."

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