Paola Egonu scored 29 points for Italy against China
Sapporo, Japan, October 4, 2018 –Italy fought back brilliantly to overcome China 3-1 (20-25, 26-24, 25-16, 25-20) and finish the first round of the FIVB World Championship 5-0 at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center on Thursday. China ended the first round 4-1.
Paola Egonu finished the match with 29 points, while Miryam Sylla had 15 and Lucia Bosetti 14. Egonu’s total included three aces and three blocking points. Anna Danesi contributed five blocking points and two aces. China were led by Zhu Ting with 20 points.
Italy had an impressive 19 blocking points against China’s fabled attack, while China could only manage nine. Italy also had eight aces to China’s four. Italy committed 23 errors to China’s 10.
From beginning to end, the match was intense. Italy had the early advantage, to the annoyance of the many China supporters in the audience. Miryam Sylla landed a couple of smashes for Italy but a block by China’s setter Ding Xia on Lucia Bosetti drew the teams level at 6-6. Egonu, Italy’s top scorer in the tournament, landed a massive spike but China responded by blocking her next two attempts. Egonu reacted by disguising her next attack brilliantly and lobbing the ball into the far corner. Ding and Yan Ni combined on two short quick sets for points, Gong Xiangyu shot an ace and then Zhu Ting came up with the shot of the tournament. Falling away from the antenna, she conjured up a shot that zipped through the Italian defence to put China 17-13 ahead. Italy coach Davide Mazzanti immediately called a timeout, but the shot inspired the China team and their fans. On the next point, Italy messed up their set to fall five points behind at 18-13. At 19-15, China got a second moment of brilliance as Yan Ni fooled everyone with the most delicate of tipovers. As if that wasn’t enough, libero Wang Mengjie came up with a miraculous point after reacting to a wicked Egonu serve. The ball dropped perfectly into space in the middle of the Italian court. China could do little wrong and it was fitting that their talisman Zhu should finish off the set.
The astonishing intensity of the first set didn’t let up a bit in the second. An ace by Danesi and a block by Sylla on Zhu put Italy in the lead at 3-1. Egonu blocked Zhang Changning and then came up with an ace as Italy headed to an 8-5 lead at the first technical timeout. Three smashes by Zhu brought China level at 10. Mazzanti called his players off after a long shot by Egonu and she responded with a blockbuster smash. Cristina Chirichella added three quick kills plus a service ace but Yuan Xinyue responded with a magnificent kill and the scores were level at 16. When Zhu put China ahead at 19-18, Italy called a timeout and then took two quick points with short sets to, and quick spikes by, Danesi, which turned the game in Italy’s favour. Danesi went even better by then blocking Zhu twice in succession. Two cracks by Egonu brought two set points and she blew one with a long serve before a defensive mixup between Lucia Bosetti – who was superb all night – and Sylla brought the teams level at 24. Sylla earned Italy another setpoint and Chirichella then blocked Zhu to draw Italy level.
Bosetti kicked off the third set with an ace and Italy were up and running. They would lead from start to finish. They moved from 5-4 to 10-4 as China struggled to find their game and China coach Lang Ping was forced to call a timeout after a mix-up put Italy 12-5 ahead. Zhu tried to pull her team back into the match but the Italians were in the zone. Two great blocks by Ofelia Malinov brought up setpoint at 24-15 and a Bosetti shot put Italy 2-1 up.
China failed to respond at the start of the fourth set and Egonu and Sylla combined to give Italy a 6-2 lead. China’s Yan Ni helped China fight back and after some great defence by Zhu, Liu Xiaotong drew her team level at 8-8. Egonu stepped up to lead Italy to a 14-11 lead after a stupendous service ace, but China drew level again at 15. Bosetti then turned the match in Italy’s favour with three brilliant blocks – one on Zhu and two on Zhang Changning – but three points by Zhu saw China level again at 19. Egonu and Sylla pushed Italy ahead and a reception error by Gong Xiangyu brought up matchpoint, which Egonu converted with a resounding thump.