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Volleyball: China fight back against Italy to set pace with Brazil in Sapporo

China celebrate a thrilling fightback against Italy, winning 3-2. Photos: FIVB.

China celebrate a thrilling fightback against Italy, winning 3-2. Photos: FIVB.

August 29, 2013: China twice came from behind to beat Italy 3-2 (28-30, 25-22, 26-28, 25-13, 15-10) to share the lead with Olympic champions Brazil after the second day of the World Grand Prix Finals in Sapporo, Japan.


Brazil, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champions, beat hosts Japan 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-17) in Thursday’s last game to join China with two wins in two days at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center.


Serbia beat the USA, who suffered a second straight loss.

Serbia beat the USA, who suffered a second straight loss.

Serbia stunned defending champions USA 3-1 (25-23, 20-25, 25-28, 25-23) in the day’s first match, with Serb captain Jovana Brakocevic again leading her team’s scoring, with 22 points. The USA have only a slim chance of winning a fourth straight World Grand Prix, with three days left in the six-team round-robin competition.


China’s dramatic five-set victory over Italy extended their unbeaten streak in this year’s FIVB World Grand Prix to 11 matches, having won all nine of the preliminary round games. However, China coach Jenny Lang Ping was most concerned about her team’s inability to convert multiple set points in the first and third sets.


“I think we gave the audience a great competition, but it’s very valuable for our players to learn from these games,” Lang said. “In sets one and three we had chances to close the game, but missed those opportunities, so we want to use this experience for the future. We used lots of players and it’s good they had opportunities to play against Italy because they’re a great team.”


China captain Hui Ruoqi added: “I’m very happy with the win. I thought Italy played very well. We saw many videos of Italy playing, but today they played better than that. They’re very tall, quick and powerful, so the game was very hard.”


Captain Hui Ruoqi top scored for China.

Captain Hui Ruoqi top scored for China.

Hui led by example, the outside hitter top scoring for China with 19 points, while middle blockers Xu Yinli and Yang Junjing each scored 15, both starting all five sets with Hui and setter Shen Jingsi.


Left-handed opposite Zeng Chunlei (14), two-time Olympian Wang Yimei (13) and 18-year-old outside hitter Zhu Ting (10), who came on as a substitute in the fourth set, also reached double figures.


Despite starting nervously – Lang calling her players off court at 4-0 down – China eventually took the lead, but were unable to convert any of five set points before Italy converted their first following a Chinese error at the net for a 30-28 win.


China led for most of the second set and although Italy pulled within one point at 23-22, a nice smash by Zeng earned two setpoints, this time the side converting at the first attempt when Xu made a block on Carolina Costagrande for a 25-22 win.


China had three setpoints in the third, but threw away the advantage with poor reception and the 2.02-metre Valentina Diouf pounded the winner for a 28-26 win.


China brought in their own young star, Zhu, for the fourth set and she warmed up with a cracking blast in a tight opening session before producing three straight kills as the side ran into a 16-9 lead, backed by some decent defence, eventually winning 25-13.


Zhu Ting, 18, made a strong impact as a fourth-set substitute.

Zhu Ting, 18, made a strong impact as a fourth-set substitute.

It was tight again in the fifth set with Diouf laying down smashes and Zhu replying with a block and two good hits that put China up by two at the turnaround. A great block by Zhu on Diouf gave China a four-point cushion at 11-7, while Zeng eventually finished the set and match with a shot down the middle.


“We came to the Grand Prix to try and play all the players so they can use the tournament to grow. I don’t want to only play six players,” Lang said.


“Sometimes they’re young, like Zhu Ting. She didn’t do well in the first match, she was up and down, so we want to let her watch some games to learn and then come into the game with no heavy pressure. We’re trying to develop our young players. This is our goal.”


It was a second defeat but a much-improved performance for Italy, who lost to Japan on Wednesday. Diouf, 20, was Italy’s top scorer for the second straight game, scoring with 26 points. Italy edged the blocking tally 10-9, while China prevailed 8-5 in serves.

The 2.02-metre Valentina Diouf, 20, was Italy's top scorer for the second match.

The 2.02-metre Valentina Diouf, 20, was Italy’s top scorer for the second match.

2013 FIVB World Grand Prix Finals, Sapporo, Japan (local start times)


Wednesday, August 28 (13:30): Serbia 1-3 China

Wednesday, August 28 (15:30): Brazil 3-0 USA

Wednesday, August 28 (19:10): Japan 3-0 Italy


Thursday, August 29 (13:30): USA 1-3 Serbia

Thursday, August 29 (15:30): Italy 2-3 China

Thursday, August 29 (19:10): Japan 0-3 Brazil


Friday, August 30 (13:30): China v USA

Friday, August 30 (15:30): Brazil v Italy

Friday, August 30 (19:10): Serbia v Japan


Saturday, August 31 (13:30): Italy v USA

Saturday, August 31 (15:30): Brazil v Serbia

Saturday, August 31 (19:10): Japan v China


Sunday, September 1 (13:30): Serbia v Italy

Sunday, September 1 (15:30): China v Brazil

Sunday, September 1 (19:10): USA v Japan

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