There are no symptoms of great shape which were showed by U.S National Team during World Grand Prix group stage. Having surrendered Serbia, Americans lost second match in Final Six and probably will not repeat triumphs from 2010, 2011, and 2013. The second match of the day had much tighter run. China overcame Italy, however scarcely in tie-break still saving marvelous record with 11 wins and no losses.



USA – Serbia 1 – 3 (23-25, 25-20, 18-25, 23-25)

USA: A. Glass 2, Hill 5, Harmotto 11, Murphy 23, Hildebrand 13, Gibbemeyer 13, Miyashiro (L) and Lichtman, Fawcett 2, Hagglund 2, Hood 1
Serbia: Ognjenovic 8, Mihajlovic 20, Rasic 13, Brakocevic 22, Molnar 5, Krsmanovic 8, Cebic (L) and Malesevic, Bjelica  

USA’s Kelly Murphy landed two early bombs to give her team a boost but Serbia’s Brankica Mihajlovic got into a good groove with four clean kills in the first phase of the match and Serbia were five points ahead at the first technical timeout. USA coach Karch Kiraly called a timeout when his team fell six points back at 11-5 and the Americans dug in well in response, moving to within two points at 14-12 when Serbia coach Zoran Terzic called his players off court. Two big thumps by Mihajlovic gave Serbia a three-point advantage at the second TTO but the Americans kept fighting back and got to within a point on six occasions. They almost completed an impressive comeback after saving three setpoints, but Milena Rasic shut the door with a convincing shot down the middle that gave Serbia a 1-0 lead.

The second set started much as the first had ended with the Americans very much equal to their Serbian opponents. Mihajlovic kept pumping away at the net but the Americans were defending with much more conviction, which, in turn, helped their attack. Kimberly Hill landed two kills and Lauren Gibbemeyer made a great block on Jovana Brakocevic that put USA ahead for good at 13-12. Jenna Hagglund came in and delivered two service aces that helped move the Americans into a four-point lead at 17-13 and they never really looked in danger after that. A Hill ace – with Serbia libero Suzana Cebic again the unlucky recipient – brought setpoint and Kristin Hildebrand blocked Mihajlovic to end the set and even the match at 1-1.

USA had the early advantage in the third set but some crunching kills by Brakocevic kept Serbia in touch. The Serbian then came up with two aces as her team moved four points ahead at 12-8. Kiraly called timeouts at 10-8 and 14-9 to try and get his team back on track but the Americans fell six points back at 17-11 after two kills by Mihajlovic. A couple of smashes by USA captain Hildebrand kept the Americans alive and Serbia coach Zoran Terzic called a timeout when the gap narrowed to three points at 20-17. Serbia regained their composure and Mihajlovic brought setpoint with a monster hit down the middle before Nicole Fawcett sent a shot wide, giving Serbia a 2-1 lead in the match.

Serbia got nice blocks from Maja Ognjenovic and Milena Rasic early in the fourth set but the Americans came back with good shots from Regan Hood and Hildebrand, and an ace by Gibbemeyer as they took the lead for the first time at 13-12. No team could get more than a point ahead until 21-21 when a good serve by Brakocevic set up an easy shot for Natasa Krsmanovic to put Serbia 23-21 ahead. Two matchpoints came after a neatly placed tipover from Brakocevic, and Serbian captain Ognjenovic finished things off with a classy first-time tipover at the net.

Team Stats:

Action/TeamSpike pointsSpike %BlockServeDigReceptionSets NoteUnforced Errors


Team Leaders:

Action/PlayerPointsSpike PointsSpike %Spike errorsBlockServeUnforced Errors
Kely Murphy232155%3027
Jovana Brakocevic221945%5037


World Grand Prix


Italy – China 2 – 3 (28-30, 25-22, 26-28, 25-13, 15-10)

Italy: Signorile 2, Sorokaite 20, Arighetti 6, Diouf 26, Costagrande 12, Guiggi 13, Gennari (L) and Barcellini, Camera, Fiorin
China: Shen 3, Hui 19, Yang 15, Lei Zhang 8, Wang 13, Xu 15, Xian Zhang (L) and Yanng Mi, Zeng 14, Yin, Zhu 10

China looked nervous at the start of the match and coach Lang Ping called her players off court with the score at 0-4. But they continued to make errors and struggled to get into the game. Italy were five points ahead at the first technical timeout and six points ahead at 11-5 after another Chinese error. But then they started defending better and that helped them attack better. A good spike by Zhang Lei drew China level at 14-14 and then it was a battle with neither team giving ground. China had two-point leads at 18-16 and 19-17 but couldn’t capitalise on their advantage. Italy saved five setpoints, the fifth on a good block by Carolina Costagrande on Hui Ruoqi. A nicely placed shot down the left line by Costagrande brought the Italians their first setpoint and a Chinese error at the net put Italy 1-0 up.

It was tight again at the start of the second set but China pulled away from 7-7 to 13-8 with Yang Junjing landing some good shots and also coming up with a great block on the 202-cm Valentina Diouf. Wang Yimei added some typical heavy hits as China took a five-point lead at the second technical timeout. Martina Guiggi did her best to keep Italy alive with some strong kills and they pulled to within a point at 23-22, but a nice smash by lefty Zeng Chunlei earned China two setpoints. Xu Yunli then made a sweet block on Costagrande at the centre of the net to even the set scores at 1-1.

Italian errors and an ace by Zeng allowed China to move into a 6-3 lead in the third set but Italy fought back to level the scores at 7-7. Wang knocked Italian libero Alessia Gennari over with a thunderbolt to make the score 9-7 and after a response from Indre Sorokaite China got a nice tipover from Hui, a rocket from Zeng and an ace from Shen Jingsi to go four points up. Zeng added a smash and a lovely lob before Italy fought back to level at 15-15 on an ace by Diouf. China earned two setpoints on a spike by Wang but sloppy reception allowed Italy to level at 24-24. Italy saved another setpoint before earning one of their own, which was saved by a super cross-court shot from Yang Junjing. Sorokaite brought Italy’s second setpoint and poor reception by China – not the first time – set up Diouf for the winner and a 2-1 Italian lead.

China brought in 18-year-old Ting Zhu for the fourth set and she warmed up with a cracking blast in a tight opening session. Good serving – including an ace – from the classy Zeng helped China ease into a four-point lead at 9-5 as they started to rediscover their rhythm. Three straight kills from Zhu – and some decent defence – put China 16-9 up at the second TTO. More good work from Zhu and Hui saw China expand their lead to 10 points at 23-13. Zeng sent a bomb through the Italian defence to earn setpoint and a blocked shot took the match to a tiebreaker.

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 points at the turnaround. A long hit by Costagrande expanded that to three and a super block by Zhu on Diouf gave China a four-point cushion at 11-7. Matchpoint came at 14-8 when Italy failed to return a serve by Shen Jingsi and Zeng finished the match with a shot down the middle.      

Team Stats:

Action/TeamSpike pointsSpike %BlockServeDigReceptionSets NoteUnforced Errors


Team Leaders:

Action/PlayerPointsSpike PointsSpike %Spike errorsBlockServeUnforced Errors
Valentina Diouf262143%72310
Ruoqi Hui191844%6107


Descriptions: FIVB