Russia battle past Italy in three sets to open Finals


Ekaterina Lyubushkina going for a Russia kill against Italy

Omaha, USA, July 22, 2015 – Russia started their FIVB World Grand Prix Finals on a positive note by defeating Italy 3-0 (26-24, 28-26, 25-19) as Nataliya Goncharova scored a match-high 28 points Wednesday at the CenturyLink Center Omaha in Nebraska.

Goncharova tallied 27 attack winners on 49 swings with a block in the victory. Yana Shcherban totaled 11 points for Russia. Italy was led by Valentina Diouf's 17 points, while INdre Sorokaite and Cristina Chirichella contributed 10 points. Russia held a 5-3 block advantage, while Italy held the edge in blocks at 5-4. Italy committed 21 errors in the three set loss to Russia's 16.

Italy earned a two-point cushion at 19-17, but it became a race to down the stretch again as Russia leveled the scoreboard at 21-all. Chirichella gave Italy set points at 24-22, but Russia saved both chances. Ilchenko connected for a cross court winner to put Russia ahead 25-24 on a 3-0 run. Goncharova ended the set with a winner off the block at 26-24 – her 10th attack winner on 18 swings of the set.

Russia broke a 14-all tie with two quick points and extended their lead to 19-16 with a Alexandra Pasynkova ace forcing Italy to call a timeout. Diouf hit a cross-court winner to start a 3-0 run to level the score at 22-all. Diouf put down a winner to give Italy a set point at 24-23. Russia saved the point and regained the lead at 26-25. Pasynkova served an ace for the winner 28-26. Goncharova picked up another 10 points in the set to head into the third set with 20 total.

Russia started off the third set fast with a 4-1 advantage and widened the gap to 10-4. Italy rattled off four unanswered points to move to within two at 10-8. Russia took a 16-12 lead into the second technical timeout with a sharp angle winner from Goncharova. Russia maintained command the rest of the way with a 25-19 victory.


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