Serbia and Italy will play for gold tomorrow in the grand finale of the 2018 FIVB Women’s World Championships.
In the semifinals, Serbia earned redemption for its defeat at the hands of the Netherlands during pool play, sending the Dutch squad to the bronze-medal match with a victory in four sets (25-22, 26-28, 25-19, 25-23).
Serbia had already qualified for the Final Six in that previous meeting with the Netherlands, however, and chose to sit some of its top players, including Tijana Boskovic, who contributed 29 points in the semifinal. Brankica Mihajlovic added 23 points, while the Netherlands was led by 23 points from opposite Lonneke Sloetjes.
Serbia also won the blocking battle, stuffing the Netherlands a total of 11 times with three blocks each from Boskovic, Milena Rasic, and Stefena Veljkovic.
“This is our biggest success in the World Championships in Serbian volleyball history,” Serbian head coach Zoran Terzic said. Serbia’s previous best finish was a bronze medal in 2006.
It was a jaw-dropping Friday at #FIVBWomensWCH and you can relive it with the match points of these three fantastic matches! 👏— Volleyball World (@FIVBVolleyball) October 19, 2018
🇷🇸 Serbia 3 - 1 Netherlands 🇳🇱
🇨🇳 China 2 - 3 Italy 🇮🇹
5th place final:
🇺🇸 USA 3 - 1 Japan 🇯🇵#volleyball #volleyballWCHs pic.twitter.com/xwkESYKYYF
An incredible five-set match saw Italy barely escape China 25-18, 21-25, 25-16, 29-31, 17-15 in the second semifinal. As it has throughout the tournament, Italy relied heavily on 19-year-old opposite Paola Egonu whose 45 points (39 kills, one block, five aces) marks a new World Championship rally-scoring era record for points in a match.
Italy last won a World Championship in 2002 and in the most recent edition of the tournament, the Italians finished fourth, losing in five sets to Brazil in the 2014 bronze-medal match.
The USA defeated Japan 25-23, 25-16, 23-25, 25-23 in the fifth-place match. With the host team pushing the USA to four sets and then rallying back to within two points at the end of the fourth, the Americans looked more relieved than joyful when the ball made finally contact with the floor on Japan’s side to end the match.
Heading into Friday’s match with Japan, the USA had lost four matches in a row. To defeat the scrappy Japanese squad, the Americans emphasized their height advantage, winning the blocking battle 10 to one. Thanks in large part to four aces from Micha Hancock, who earned the start at the setter position, the U.S. women also out-served Japan seven to two.
Kim Hill led the match with 25 total points. Hill and Jordan Larson finished the tournament tied as the USA’s top points contributors with 134 each.
FIVB World Championship Medal-Round Schedule
Bronze Medal Match
Netherlands vs. China
Saturday, October 20, 3:20 AM CT
Gold Medal Match
Serbia vs. Italy
Saturday, October 20, 5:40 AM CT