Egonu blasts perfect Italy into Final Six
Paola Egonu was virtually unplayable in the Italian attack, leading her team with 29 points, including 25 spikes. Miryam Sylla added 13 and three other Italian players scored in double figures.
Irina Voronkova played her best match of the tournament in leading Russia with 21 points.
Italy had dropped only one set - against China - coming into this match but lost the opening frame 25-22 when Russia converted the first of two set points, a winner from Voronkova after a dizzying rally. This was Voronkova's seventh point of the first set - all spikes. Kseniia Parubets added six and Irina Fetisova scored five. Irina Koroleva scored some crucial points down the stretch to prevent an Italy fightback.
The bulk of Italy's points in the first set came from Miryam Sylla (6), Paola Egonu (5) and captain Cristina Chirichella (4, with two blocks).
Russia maintained this momentum into the second set, with Parubets soaring from the back court and scoring in spectacular fashion and Voronkova leaping and spiking imperiously from the left to beat the Italian defence. In reply, Anna Danesi sent a thundering spike down the middle.
Italy called a TO trailing 15-10 after some superb hits from Olga Biryukova before Lucia Bosetti and Egonu got Italy moving at just the right time to keep Russia within their sights approaching the 20s.
A Danesi block on Voronkova brought Italy closer and Egonu's delicately placed winner made it 19-19. A super Sylla block and breakdown in the Russian attack gave Italy the impetus and Sylla then popped up to pound Italy ahead 22-19 and bring a Russia TO. Danesi brought up four set points at 24-20 and Italy closed it out at the first time of asking with another fine block for 25-20 and 1-1.
Voronkova stepped it up for Russia in the third set but they needed a TO down 12-8 after a Bosetti ace and Sylla block. The Russians were finding it hard to put away their attacking opportunities and, consequently, Italy had a four-point advantage at the second TTO, 16-12. Chirichella drove Italy forward and Russia, despite the consistent brilliance of Voronkova, were in trouble as the set reached its conclusion. Italy had six set points at 24-18 and Egonu's ferocious jump serve was unreturnable as the ball went spinning into the crowd, 25-18 and 2-1 Italy.
Russia needed a big set from Koroleva to stay in this match and she started the fourth frame in good form as Russia led 8-5 at the first TTO. A well-disguised sliced winner from Egonu across the front of the Russian court had Italy coach Davide Mazzanti applauding from the sideline and the same player had too much power for Russia's two-strong block shortly after.
Chirichella was determined to finish this in four sets and the thundering jump serves of Egonu set up five match points at 24-19. Russia saved three to close the gap to 24-22 and force an Italy TO and Italy took it 25-22 with an errant serve.
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