Osaka, Japan, October 11, 2018 - Italy completed a 9-0 clean sweep in the first two rounds of the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship by defeating the United States 3-1 in Pool F at Osaka Municipal Central Gymnasium on Thursday afternoon. On the back of an astonishing individual performance by Paola Egonu, Italy won 3-1 with set scores of 25-16, 25-23, 20-25, 25-16 to extend their perfect 9-0 win-loss record while dropping the Americans to 7-2 with their second defeat in two days.
Egonu scored 33 points, with 25 spikes, five blocks and a hat trick of booming jump serve aces. Miryam Sylla added 22, with 16 spikes, four blocks and two aces, meaning Egonu and Sylla contributed 55 points between them.
Captain Jordan Larson led the USA reply with 14 points and Kimberly Hill added 12 as the Americans were second best on the day against a dynamic Italy team.
Italy, as well as China, had sealed their place in the top three from Pool F the previous day but there was no let-up against the USA from the Italians as they stormed to the first set 25-16.
Paola Egonu was on fire with nine points in the first set, eight of them spikes, and Miryam Sylla added seven including two blocks. Between them these two accounted for 16 of Italy's 19 points, plus six opposition errors. USA captain Jordan Larson led her team with six points.
Larson was proving to be a magnificent captain as she led the United States into the first TTO of the second set 8-5 ahead. Foluke Akinradewo also made her presence felt with a crashing block on Sylla and then a silky spike after Larson had expertly controlled a booming Egonu jump serve. Kimberly Hill maintained this pressure with some lusty blows and Italy took a TO trailing 14-12. Akinradewo blazed the USA into the second TTO ahead 16-14.
The American block and defence had really tightened up and the Italians were finding clean winners much harder to come by. Lauren Gibbemeyer kept the USA moving forward but could they hold on as the Egonu-powered Italy stepped up the pace? The answer was no as Sylla out on the left and Egonu produced some late magic to close it 25-23 for 2-0 on Italy's second set point. Egonu (18) and Sylla (11) had already contributed 29 points.
In the third set, Akinradewo stopped Egonu with a crunching block and Larson and Hill spiked superbly as the United States reached the second TTO 16-13 in front. When Hill broke through again for 20-16, Italy needed a TO. Things did not improve for Italy as Hill blocked Egonu and Sylla fired wide from the left to leave Italy in big trouble at 22-18. Larson, inevitably, finished the third set 25-20 on the Americans' second set point.
The Italians put the disappointment behind them and began the fourth set in determined fashion. Cristina Chirichella blocked Hill and Sylla spiked for 7-3 and a USA TO. Egonu added another point with a block and Anna Danesi, who had been restricted to three points in the first three sets, scored down the middle and Italy were back in control at 14-9 when the USA took a TO.
A Sylla ace flew through the USA court for 20-11 and the power of Egonu and Sylla closed the deal at 25-16.