VOLLEYBALL: U.S. loses two, but advances to final round in women’s Worlds

FIVB Women's World Championship scoring leader Paola Ogechi Egonu

The hard matches finally came in the FIVB Women’s World Championships and left only Italy as an undefeated team on the way to the final round. Now it will be the Netherlands, Japan, Serbia, Italy, China and the United States to battle for the medals.

The final second-round standings showed:

Pool E:
1. Netherlands (24: 8-1); 3. Japan (22: 7-2); 3. Serbia (21: 7-2); 4. Brazil (20: 7-2); 5. Dominican Republic (16: 5-4); 6. Germany (14: 5-4); 7. Puerto Rico (9: 3-6); 8. Mexico (3: 1-8).

Pool F:
1. Italy (27 points: 9-0): 2. China (24: 8-1); 3. United States (19: 7-2); 3.; 4. Russia (18: 6-3); 5. Turkey (15: 5-4); 6. Bulgaria (11: 4-5); 7. Thailand (11: 3-7); 8. Azerbaijan (6: 2-7).

In Pool E, the key match turned out to be the Netherlands sweeping Serbia, 3-0 and with Japan also beating Serbia, 3-1, it didn’t matter than Brazil beat Japan, 3-2, in the last game of the group. It will be the first time since 2002 that Brazil will not play for a medal and the first time since 1986 that it didn’t make it past the second round.

In Pool F, Italy remained the only unbeaten team in the tournament, beating Russia (3-1) and the U.S. (3-1) in its final two games in pool play. The U.S. was swept by China (3-0) and lost to Italy – 25-16, 25-23, 20-25, 25-16 – after winning its first seven games and squeaked into the final qualifying spot by one point over Russia, which lost to Italy and China in its last two matches.

After the loss to Italy, U.S. head coach Karch Kiraly said, “Compliments to Italy. They have been playing very strong volleyball this tournament. Coach Davide [Mazzanti] has been doing a very nice job with them and I respect his work.

“We are quite disappointed with this loss. Volleyball is played by human beings who are not perfect, thank God for that, and both China and Italy played really nice strong volleyball and put us in difficult positions.” Translation: the U.S. played poorly and knew it.

In the final round – being played in Nagoya – the six qualifiers are split into pools of three, with the two top in each pool advancing to the semifinals:

Pool G:
14 October: Japan vs. Serbia
15 October: Italy vs. Japan
16 October: Italy vs. Serbia

Pool H:
14 October: China vs. United States
15 October: Netherlands vs. United States
16 October: Netherlands vs. China

The semis are scheduled for the 19th and the finals for the 20th, in Yokohama.

Italy’s dominance in the tournament so far is reflected in Paola Ogechi Egonu taking the tournament scoring lead with 182 points, with Miryam Fatime Sylla (2nd: 54.85%) and Egonu (7th: 49.18%) both in the top ten in hitting percentage. Germany’s Louisa Lippmann (GER) is currently second in scoring with 179 points, but will soon be passed by Lonneke Sloetjes (NED, 174).

The U.S. is the defending champion, having beaten China in the final four years ago. Of the other final-round teams, Italy won in in 2002 and Japan won in 1962 and 1967. Serbia (as Serbia and Montenegro) won bronze in 2006; the Dutch have never won a medal in the women’s Worlds.

Look for scores and standings here.