Miryam Sylla was the key player in Italy's win over Bulgaria
Sapporo, Japan, September 29, 2018 – Italy breezed past Bulgaria 3-0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-22) in the first match of the FIVB Women’s World Championship at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center on Saturday.
In the first meeting of these two teams since 2002 in a major world competition, Italy again prevailed. Bulgaria last beat Italy 15 years ago in a major competition, the European Championship.
Paolo Egonu top-scored for Italy with 18 points, including four blocks, but Miryam Sylla was the spark that fired up the Italian team, coming up with key points at crucial moments and scoring 17 overall. The Dimitrovas led Bulgaria, Nasya edging Gergana nine points to eight.
Italy were superior in blocking points 11-4 but also led in digs, reception and sets. Both teams had 14 errors.
A cracking spike by Sylla put the Italians up 8-6 after a close opening phase and Bulgaria struggled badly after that. Coach Ivan Petkov called a timeout at 10-6 but the Bulgarians continued to struggle against the power of Sylla, whose strong block put Italy 16-8 up at the second technical timeout. Fittingly Sylla closed out the set with another fine hit.
Bulgaria came out for the second set fired up and zoomed into a 7-4 lead before going ahead 8-5 at the first TTO on a super block by Monika Krasteva. Nasya Dimitrova followed up with an ace to make the score 9-5 but poor distribution by the Bulgarians allowed Italy to level the scores at 11-11 and the Italians pulled away after that, leading 16-13 at the second TTO. A Sylla ace and a thump by Paola Egonu made it 18-13 and Bulgaria called another timeout but they were unable to close the gap.
Italy stayed ahead early in the third set and led 8-5 at the first TTO but their play became a little sloppy and two errors brought Bulgaria to within two points at 12-10 when Italy coach Davide Mazzanti called a timeout. Sylla, with a super spike, and Egonu with an ace put Italy back in the driving seat at the second TTO, 16-12. Two terrific hits down the line by Mariya Karakasheva pulled Bulgaria to within a point at 17-16 and when Egonu went long it was 17-17. Italy pulled out in front again and earned themselves five matchpoints. They needed them as Bulgaria dug in, but Sylla was on hand to end the match with another resounding spike.