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12/10/2014 23:40
USA win first World Championship title, China and Brazil complete the podium
News from the FIVB

Milano, Italy, October 12, 2014. USA are the new women’s world champions! In front of 12,600 thrilled fans in Milano’s Mediolanum Forum, USA overpowered China 3-1 (27-25, 25-20, 16-25, 26-24) to claim their first FIVB World Championship title. It was a historic night for American Volleyball, for this is their first ever title in a major international competition. Despite their legacy of success over the past 30-plus years, the USA had never won the World Championship title – or any of the three major women’s international titles including the Olympic Games and FIVB World Cup before. Best scorer of Sunday’s gold medal match were Kimberly Hill for USA and Chunlei Zeng for China with 20 kills each. Earlier in the evening the hosts of Italy attempted an incredible comeback in the bronze medal match with reigning Olympic champions Brazil, storming back from two sets down but they eventually ran out of fuel in the tie-break (2:3; 15-25, 13-25, 25-22, 25-22, 7-15) thereby settling for fourth place at the end of the competition that had started almost three weeks ago.

Gold medal match

China vs. United States 1:3 (25-27, 20-25, 25-16, 24-26)

It’s not only the USA team that wrote history. There was also a very personal distinction for head coach Karch Kiraly. This is his second gold medal in World Championships. He already holds one as a player for the men’s National Team of USA that beat the Soviet Union 3-1 in the 1986 final in Paris. He becomes the fourth person in history to achieve this “double” after the USSR Alexey Yakushev and Givi Akhvlediani in the 1950s and 1960s and China’s Zhang Rongfang in the 1980s. And only Yakushev before Kiraly had made the crossover from winning gold with a men’s team to coaching a women’s team to gold.

China quickly jumped out for a 6:2 lead with Yuan Xinyue on fire. Christa Dietzen and Kelly Murphy reduced the deficit to one point at the first technical time-out. There was not much to separate the two teams in the early stages of the much-awaited gold medal battle. Kimberly Hill turned the tables for USA with a service winner at 12:11. It was maybe the key moment in the first set. The United States gained momentum and carried the lead into the crucial moments of the opening set. The Asian side saved four set balls but eventually could not cope with the power and precision the World No. 2 displayed. A four-touch combination of China offered USA the first set 27-25. Foluke Akinradewo led the US team with seven kills. The North Americans had the edge in blocking (5-3) and serving (4-1). Zhu Ting was the best scorer for China with nine points.

Karch Kiraly’s squad kept the upper hand in the beginning of the second set. Jordan Larson-Burbach and Christa Dietzen moved the US team ahead to take a four-point lead at the first technical time-out. China coach Lang Ping immediately sent in Shen Jingsi for starting setter Wei Qiuyue to modify the Asian offensive patterns. It helped as China gradually rallied back to draw level at 12:12. As in the end of the first set, it was hard to pull these two teams apart at that stage of the match. However, the United States kept calm and managed to regain momentum in the decisive moments of the second set. Murphy, Akinradewo, Courtney Thompson and Kimberly Hill helped the North Americans scoring five consecutive points to make it 23-18. It was good enough as the US ladies never looked back. Nicole Fawcett closed it out at 25-20. Christa Dietzen and Kimberly Hill contributed five kills each to the US set win. China super star Zhu Ting had scored only once in the second set.

The gold medal battle remained a close affair in the beginning of the third set and China had not said their last word. Hill and Akinradewo fired wildly but China led by one point at the first technical time-out. China opposite Zeng Chunlei, with remarkable power and speed, moved the Asians forward to gain momentum for China in the middle of the third set. China led 16:10 at the second technical break. China coach Lang Ping had replaced Zhu Ting with Liu Xiaotong for the third set and it seemed as her strategy had paid off. The US team had to deal with a fully new set up. Fawcett reduced the gap to five points at 20:15, but it was not good enough. China speedily cruised to a 25-16 set win. Zeng Chunlei and Kimberly Hill contributed seven kills each for their teams in the third set.

However, USA quickly bounced back at the start of the fourth set. Larson-Burbach and Murphy aided their side with spectacular winners to regain control. Akinradewo smashed for a 15:11 US lead and Fawcett added a block kill to make it 17:13 for the North Americans. Zhu Ting responded with two kills to reduce the gap to two points at 17:15 but Fawcett – again – and Dietzen restored order at 19:15. However, it was not over yet. China bounced back heroically to turn the tables again. The Asian side booked seven (!) consecutive points to retake the lead at 22:19. USA came closer at 23:22 and Lang Ping quickly called her ladies off court. Hill, with an enormous kill via China’s block, drew level at 23:23 before Akinradewo brought up match point for the United States. China saved one but could not prevent Hill to hammer another spike down at 26-24 and bounce USA in heaven.  

USA coach Karch Kiraly: “We came here to make history and we made it. It was a tough battle, but we made it.”

USA captain Christa Dietzen: “It’s the first time for the USA and we made it. We represented present and future Volleyball programmes, but most importantly we did it together.”

Bronze medal match

Italy vs. Brazil 2:3 (15-25, 13-25, 25-22, 25-22, 7-15)

The World No. 1 Brazil overcame the disappointment of Saturday’s semi-final defeat to USA and outlasted hosts Italy 3-2 (25-15, 25-13, 22-25, 22-25, 15-7) in front of a 12,600-strong sell-out crowd, to finish third in the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship. It’s the lowest Brazil have been since a seventh place in 2002, though counting the other way round it’s their fourth-best appearance ever, after the silver medals they won in 1994, 2006 and 2010. For Italy it is the second-best finish ever (after the gold medal of 2002), equalling their 2006 performance when they lost the bronze medal match to Serbia & Montenegro. Best scorer of the bronze medal match was Italy’s Valentina Diouf with 31 points. Sheilla Castro contributed 21 kills for Brazil. Brazil had the edge in blocking (11-6), Italy in serving (7-5).

Both World No. 1 Brazil and host Italy were amongst the pre-tournament favourites and with their performances until Saturday were also favoured to win their semi-final. Nevertheless, both teams lost and it was interesting to see how they would react to Saturday’s defeats and the fact that they could no longer go for the trophy. Head to head in official FIVB competitions Brazil had 24 wins to Italy’s seven. Brazil jumped out for an 8:4 lead at the first technical break with team captain Fabiana Claudino firing wildly from the middle of the court. Italy coach Marco Bonitta called his ladies off court at 9:4 to have a serious chat – however – it did not help. Jaqueline Carvalho scored twice for Brazil to make it 11:4. It was a one-sided contest in the early stages of the opening set. Fernanda Rodrigues and Sheilla Castro smacked down two kills to bring the scores to 16:8 in Brazil’s favour. It seemed as Italy were not yet ready for their bronze medal conquest. Thaisa Menezes closed out the first set with an ace at 25-15. Jaqueline, with six points, was Brazil’s most prolific player in the opening set.

The second set started with an amazing Valentina Diouf show – hammering bravely from all possible angles of the court. The 202-centimeter young star scored eight out of eleven Italian points in the beginning of the second set. Consequently, the battle became more balanced at there was nothing to separate the two teams until 11:11. However, it was a short-lived comeback with the world’s best team quickly raising their game again and having a five-point lead at the second technical time-out. Fabiana and Jaqueline were the main forces for the South Americans at that stage of the match. Then, in an enormous run – the reigning Olympic champions rallied for 13 (!) straight points from 11-11 to 24-11. Brazil were in complete control and Italy simply could not keep up. Jaqueline ended the second set 25-13 for Brazil.

The hosts needed a quick reaction in the beginning of the third set to avoid another great disappointment after Saturday’s semifinal loss. Above all, they needed rapid improvements of their block-defense system. With 50% and 57% positive attacks in the first two sets, Zé Roberto’s squad had fully dominated the battle at the net. Indeed, World No. 4 Italy started the third set with much more determination. At the first technical time-out, they led 8:6 and they widened the gap to five points at the second break. Brazil came closer at 16:15 and 18:17 but Italy kept the upper hand. Caterina Bosetti remained calm in the crucial moments of the third set, securing two decisive points at 23:20 and 24:21. Antonella Del Core closed it out at 25-22 and – despite their performance in the first two sets – the hosts were still alive in the race for a spot on the podium. With nine kills in the set, Diouf remained the key player for Italy.

Italy had strongly improved their defense in the third set and they took momentum into the fourth set. However – it remained a close affair in Milan’s sell-out Mediolanum Forum. Valentina Arrighetti moved the hosts in a one-point lead at the second technical time-out. The match balanced on a knife’s edge now with both teams exchanging lead until 22:22. Bosetti found a gap in the Brazilian block at 23:22 and then Thaisa sent the Mikasa long to offer Italy two set points at 24:22. Cristina Chirichella – with a spectacular block on Jaqueline – ended it one rally later, sending the bronze medal match of the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships into a tie-break.

There was not much to separate the two teams in the early stages of the fifth and decisive set. However, after a tie at 4:4, Brazil scored four consecutive points to gain a hard earned 8:4 lead at changeover. Italy did their utmost to turn the tables, but it was already too late. Jaqueline and Fabiana moved the score forward for Brazil and never looked back. Sheilla brought up match point at 14-7 and Fernanda Rodrigues closed out the spectacular battle at 15-7.

Brazil coach Zé Roberto: “I think we saw two matches this evening: the first two sets, followed by the third and fourth sets and the tiebreaker. We played well the first two with good defense, block and counter-attacks. After this, we took some bad choices in side-out. Italy started to adjust the defense on the block. In the third, only Diouf played - three times more than the other Italian players did. In the fourth set, Lo Bianco started to give the ball to other players then it became difficult for us to adjust the block and defense. Our serve was not so good in the third and fourth sets. In the tiebreaker, we started to serve stronger. Our block adjusted a little bit. We never gave up, and we did it.”

Brazil captain Fabiana Claudino: “I think our team did a very good job. All of us played very well. I think at the very difficult moments we had the power to continue. Thank God, we earned this medal.”

Italy coach Marco Bonitta: “I want to compliment Brazil and Zé Roberto on the match. We played a hard match. I think we had a great championship. We are happy for what we have done. The victory is not always what others think. We know that we have won what we wanted, and that is our victory.”

Italy captain Francesca Piccinini: “First, I would like to congratulate the Brazilian team. We know it was a hard match. The first and second set, we played a difficult game. Brazil put a lot of pressure on our team. During the third and fourth set, we fought to the end. Eventually, they won the match. We are sorry because we really wanted to win this medal.”

FIVB World Championship Dream Team

MVP: Kimberly Hill (USA)
Best Outside Spiker and Best Scorer: Zhu Ting (CHN)
2nd Best Outside Spiker: Kimberly Hill (USA)
Best Middle-Blocker: Thaisa Menezes (BRA)
2nd Best Middle-Blocker: Yang Junjing (CHN)
Best Libero: Monica De Gennaro (ITA)
Best Setter: Alisha Glass (USA)
Best Opposite: Sheilla Castro (BRA)

Fair Play Award: Jose Roberto Guimaraes (BRA)

Final standing

1.   USA
2.   China
3.   Brazil
4.   Italy
5.   Russia
      Dominican Republic
7.   Japan
9.   Germany
11. Belgium
13. Croatia
15. Azerbaijan
17. Argentina
      Puerto Rico
21. Tunisia

Click here for more information on the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014

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