World Grand Prix – Week 2: Serbia and Netherlands lead Group 1
Serbia remain the top squad in Group 1 with five wins and one loss; the Netherlands have the same record and trail closely in second place
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In Pool D1 in Sendai, the Serbians topped the pool with six points, which they earned from winning their matches against Japan and Thailand. Japan are in second place in the pool after they rallied to a nail-biting five-set win over defending champions Brazil to earn five points from two match victories. The Brazilians, who stunned Rio 2016 silver medallists Serbia on Friday, went down with two consecutive losses to the hands of Thailand on Saturday and the hosts on Sunday.
After struggling in the first week, Italy went on to win their next three matches in Macau. Italy reigned in Pool E1 as they defeated China 3-0, USA 3-2 and Turkey 3-0. Egonu once again hit the 30-point mark in their tie-break match against USA. China bounced back from their loss to Italy on Friday to win the next two matches against Turkey and USA on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The Asian side used their home court advantage to outlast USA in an exciting five-setter to finish second in the pool.
In Kaliningrad, the Netherlands swept their matches in Pool F1 to record a promising 5-1 win-loss record in the group. Celeste Plak and Anne Buijs had been sharing the scoring spotlight for the Netherlands with double-digit outputs in all their three victories, including Buijs’ 31-point mark against the Dominican Republic. The Netherlands were the only team that stopped Russia in the second week, as the latter logged two victories over the Dominican Republic and Belgium to put them in second place.
Korea, Poland, Germany and Czech Republic carried identical 5-1 win-loss records in Group 2. Korea topped the group with 16 points, after they swept all their matches in Pool E2 in Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski, where they handed Poland their first loss this year. Germany also swept Pool D2 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to enjoy a five-match winning streak since their opening match defeat to Korea in Bulgaria. The Czech Republic defeated Canada in five sets to bounce back from their straight-set loss to Puerto Rico and finish in second place in Pool F2.
Meanwhile, Hungary, France and Venezuela secured their spots to join Australia in the Group 3 Finals in Canberra. Hungary and France completed two weeks of action with an unbeaten record. Despite losing to Hungary on Sunday, Venezuela managed to collect the victories in other matches to earn the Final Four spot. The South American squad defeated Algeria on Friday and Mexico on Saturday in 3-0 scorelines. The Group 3 Finals will take place at the AIS Arena in Canberra, Australia from July 22 to 23.
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