Russia snatch bronze in dramatic comeback against the Netherlands
Without losing a single game along the way, Italy triumphed with the title and the gold medals of the FIVB Volleyball U20 Women’s World Championship in the Netherlands and Belgium. In Sunday’s final in Rotterdam, they shut out Serbia to top the podium. Russia celebrated with the bronze after mounting a furious comeback from two sets down in the third place match.
In the final match, Italy dominated on all counts in the first two sets. The third set was a close call as Serbia improved their defence, with libero Bojana Gocanin showing some spectacular saves to keep the suspense alive until the last referee whistle. Serbia saved two match points before Italy finished it off mercilessly at 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-23).
The Netherlands and Russia offered a five-set spectacle in the bronze medal match. The Dutch outperformed the Russians in the first two sets to take a 2-0 lead, but then Russia took control and pushed the match to a fifth set. In a thrilling tie-breaker, full of changes in the lead, the Russians denied as many as six Dutch match points to eventually emerge with a 3-2 (16-25, 23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 22-20) victory and the bronze. Their opposite Vita Akimova was unstoppable with an impressive 35 points to her name.
Italy’s playmaker Gaia Guiducci was named Most Valuable Player of the U20 World Championship and made the Dream Team of the tournament as the Best Setter. Three more Italians were honoured among the ideal seven of the championship – outside hitter Loveth Omoruyi, middle blocker Emma Graziani and libero Martina Armini. Serbia’s middle Hena Kurtagic, Russia’s opposite Vita Akimova and Netherlands’ outside Jolien Knollema completed the Dream Team.
“I don’t have any words to describe the emotion! Becoming champions of the world is something that we have been dreaming of for such a long time! Throughout the whole competition, we have been able to keep our faith alive. Since we started preparation for this championship, we have known that we can achieve this goal. It is a dream come true! This group of players deserves this title," said Gaia Guiducci, MVP and Best Setter of the competition.
FIVB Volleyball U20 Women’s World Championship - Final Standings
8. Dominican Republic
16. Puerto Rico
FIVB Volleyball U20 Women’s World Championship - MVP and Dream Team
Most Valuable Player: Gaia Guiducci (Italy)
Setter: Gaia Guiducci (Italy)
Opposite: Vita Akimova (Russia)
Outside Hitter: Loveth Omoruyi (Italy)
Outside Hitter: Jolien Knollema (Netherlands)
Middle Blocker: Emma Graziani (Italy)
Middle Blocker: Hena Kurtagic (Serbia)
Libero: Martina Armini (Italy)