Bulgaria turned out to be the first tamer of Japan in the World Grand Prix 2013. The “Bulgarian Lions” claimed in three, but very tight sets. Both teams contributed to one of the most attractive game this year. USA achieved the same result like Bulgaria, but playing against the Czech Republic. It seems that the issue of Final Six advance will be adjudicated in the direct match between USA and Bulgaria.



USA – Czech Republic 3 – 0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-23)

USA: A. Glass 1, Hill 8, Gibbmeyer 7, Murphy 10, Hildebrand 15, Paolini 4, Miyashiro (L) and Lichtman, Fawcett 7, Harmotto 3, Hagglund
Czech Republic: Vincourova 1, Mlejnkova 2, Plchotova 6, Havlickova 15, Vanzurova 12, Monzoni 6, Jasova (L) and Dostalova, Hodanova 1, Kossanyiova 3, Kubinova 2

It was the first time the two teams had met in the World Grand Prix. In other competitions, the USA have now have a five-game winning streak over the Czechs.

The Americans opened the match with a three-point spurt before the Czechs got into a rhythm and took seven of the next eight points, including two good kills by Aneta Havlickova. The Czechs led by a point at the first technical timeout, but the Americans pulled even at 11 and, aided by successive blocks, were three points ahead at the second TTO. While neither side was at the top of its game, errors were creeping into the Czech game and coach Carlo Parisi called timeouts at 14-18 and 15-21. A good hit by Nicole Fawcett earned the Americans six set points but coach Karch Kiraly called his players off court when they dropped the next three points. He needn’t have worried – a poor strike by Kristyna Pastulova on the next play handed the first set to the USA 25-20.

There wasn’t more than a point between the two teams through to 10-10 in the second set when American captain Kristin Lynn Hildebrand came up with a good spike and block on Havlickova, who also spiked long, giving USA a 13-10 lead and prompting Parisi to call a timeout. Fawcett followed up with a block on Michaela Mlejnkova and a good kill of her own to stretch the Americans’ lead to five points at 15-10. The Czechs never got closer than two points and an ace – left by the Czechs – gave USA a 21-15 lead and Parisi called his players off court again. Hildebrand spiked her team to set point at 24-19 and after a point by Havlickova, a hit by Lauren Gibbemeyer put USA 2-0 up.

Hildebrand started to rip some shots at the start of the third set and scored four points with kills as the Americans took a two-point lead at the first TTO. But successive defensive mix-ups allowed the Czechs to go 12-11 up and Kiraly called a timeout. Tamari Miyashiro fluffed the next service reception and the Czechs held a two-point advantage at the second TTO. USA pulled the scores even at 18-18 but a spike by Michaela Monzoni and a block by Sarka Kubinova on Kimberly Hill put the Czechs two points up at 20-18  and Kiraly called a timeout. Two good shots by Hill and a wide kill by Tereza Vanzurova gave the Americans a one-point lead and prompted Parisi to haul his players off. Christa Harmotto then came up with a huge block on Havlickova to give the Americans a two-point lead at 22-20 before the Czechs drew level again. A long shot by Vanzurova brought up match point at 24-22 and, after a good spike by Ivana Plchotova, the same player then sent a serve long to finish off the match.

USA had the advantage in blocks 13-8, but the Czechs led in service aces 4-2. The Czechs made 19 errors to the Americans’ 15

Kristin Lynn Hildebrand was the top scorer for the USA with 15 points. Aneta Havlickova also scored 15 for the Czech Republic.


Team Stats:

ActionsSpike pointsSpike %BlockServeDigReceptionSets noteUnforced Errors
Czech Rep.3634%841434%8.3319


Team Leaders:

Actions/PlayersPointsSpike pointsSpike %Spike errorsBlockServeUnforced Errors
Kelly Murphy10731%5306
Aneta Havlickova151334%6118


World Grand Prix


Japan – Bulgaria 0 – 3 (23-25,23-25, 29-31)

Japan: Miyashita 1, Kimura 15, Iwasaka 2, Nagaoka 4, Oumi 5, Harai , Sato (L) and Ishida, Hashimoto, Shinnabe 9, Ebata 5, Kawashima 1
Bulgaria: Kitipova 5, Vasileva 19, Ruseva 6, E. Nikolova 11, Rabadzhieva 13, S. Filipova 6, M. Filipova (L) and D. Nikolova, Zarkova 3, Karakasheva, Nenova

It was the first time the two had met in the World Grand Prix and the first time the Bulgarians had defeated Japan in any competition.

Japan started out cold and coach Masayoshi Manabe called his players off court after an errant hit by Miyu Nagaoka with the score at 1-5. Another wayward strike saw Bulgaria to an 8-2 advantage at the first technical timeout and that was to prove too big a mountain to climb for Japan, but only just. Manabe called his second timeout at 6-13 following a good block point and a kill by Emiliya Nikolova. The Bulgarian blocked Nagaoka on the next play and her team were eight points ahead at the second TTO. Bulgaria coach Marcello Abbondanza called a timeout when Japan reeled off three straight points to make the score 19-13 and did the same again when Japan closed to 21-17. As Japan found their feet, the Bulgarians got jittery and the gap narrowed to 21-19.  They earned four setpoints with a nice crosscourt kill by Elitsa Vasileva and they needed all of them as Japan nearly pulled off a remarkable escape following spikes by Yukiko Ebata and Saori Kimura and a block by Ebata. But Strashimira Filipova sent down a big hit to end the set at 25-23 and put her team 1-0 up.

Neither team played convincing volleyball at the start of the second set, but the Bulgarians still held the edge. They led 8-6 at the first TTO before a couple of errors allowed Japan to level at 10-10. Three big points by Vasileva opened up a three-point gap, but a nice tipover by Ebata and two aces by Nana Iwasaka saw the teams level again. Bulgaria were two up at the second TTO but a solid block by Kimura on Filipova saw Japan lead for the first time in the match at 17-16. Bulgaria got the jitters again and Japan were up by three points. But Aimi Kawashima served long before two good points by Dobriana Rabadzhieva drew the teams level at 20. Bulgaria got a big break at 21-21 when Rabadzhieva’s serve trickled over the net. Ebata then blew two kills wide and Bulgaria had three setpoints. Again, they needed them after spikes by Ebata and Kimura made the score 24-23, but Nikolova sent a spike through the Japanese defence to put her team 2-0 up.

Risa Shinnabe came up with four points in the first phase of the third set, and a big thump down the middle saw Japan 8-5 ahead at the first TTO. Abbondanza called a timeout a point later, but Japan weren’t firing on all cylinders and allowed Bulgaria to level at 11-11. Manabe called a timeout at 12-14 to try and settle his players but his team dropped the next two points. Rabadzhieva delivered some more power hits and after an ace by Lora Kitipova gave Bulgaria the lead at 22-21, Manabe called a timeout. Abbondanza did likewise when a block by Iwasaka saw Japan into a 23-22 lead. Akari Oumi then plonked her next serve into the net. Two huge blocks by Iwasaka brought Japan their first set point, but they couldn’t convert as the two teams traded points to 29-29. A shot wide handed Bulgaria their fifth matchpoint and Rabadzhieva finally killed off Japan’s challenge.

Team Stats:

ActionsSpike pointsSpike %BlockServeDigReceptionSets noteUnforced Errors


 Team Leaders:

Actions/PlayersPointsSpike pointsSpike %Spike errorsBlockServeUnforced Errors
Saori Kimura211843%4025
Elitsa Vasileva191670%2302


Descriotions: FIVB