After being down two sets to one, Serbia wins its first-ever FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship by defeating Italy: 21-25, 25-14, 23-25, 25-19, 15-12. Tijana Boskovic led the way for the Serbs with 26 points while Brankica Mihajlovic tallied 19 markers. Paola Egonu paced the Italians with 33 points while Lucia Bosetti made 14. Miryam Sylla can only muster ten points after a 23-point outing against China in the semifinals.
A Sylla error sealed the championship for Serbia which won its first in five tries. Meanwhile, it’s also the first time that Italy finished second in the FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship after winning in 2002 and placing fourth in 2006 and 2014. However, they could have tied the fifth set at 13 if only they capitalized on the free balls given by the Serbs. Instead, Maja Ognjenovic rammed the ball to the Italian side to make it 14-12.
See-saw battle from Sets One to Four
The Italians dominated the first set by speeding up the game and getting aggressive on service. This strategy caused the Serbians to commit six errors while Egonu and the Italians connected on 16 attack points. But in the second set, the Serbs stamped their dominance by setting balls to either Mihajlovic or Boskovic. The tandem scored seven points each in the set alone to match Italy’s total output. Egonu did have seven points to herself too but Danesi and Bosetti were the only ones who scored other than her.
The squad of Coach Davide Mazzeti bounced back in the third despite being down early. Egonu was blazing from the pipe and from the service line to grab 12 points in the set. That output equals what Boskovic, Mihajlovic, Rasic, and Ognjenovic had for the set. Down two sets to one, Serbia forced a fifth set by going back to their bread and butter. Boskovic kept on hitting balls at sharp angles to net seven points in the fourth. Coach Zoran Tercic also devised a solid middle game that benefited Milena Rasic and Stefana Veljkovic.
The pulsating fifth set
It came down to one final fifth set for the FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship 2018. Italy quickly built a 3-1 lead thanks to Bianka Busa’s miscues but that vanished after a Veljkovic spike and a Sylla error. Serbia took a 4-3 courtesy of a Boskovic attack but the lead was quickly wiped out by a Sylla spike. Italy led at the halfway point, 8-7, but a Chirichella service error and a Boskovic score gave the Serbians a 9-8 favor. Mihajlovic blocked Egonu on the succeeding rally to make it 10-8.
A side-out game ensued until Chirichella made a quick attack on the middle to make it 13-12 in the fifth. Egonu’s serve was dug by Serbian libero Silvija Popovic but went to Sylla for a free ball. Mihajlovic anticipated the attempt and passed it to Ognjenovic to set Boskovic. The Boss’ spike was blocked by Chirichella and Sylla but Popovic made an excellent dig to keep the rally going. Boskovic then set Busa for an attack which was well read by Malinov.
Veljkovic quickly tapped the ball to Italy’s side but was saved by libero Monica De Gennaro. Veljkovic had another crack at the ball but it went back directly to De Gennaro. The ball was over received again and Ognjenovic made sure that Bosetti won’t reach the ball.
Championship point for Serbia
In the last rally, Busa served to Sylla who then passed it to Malinov. The Italian setter then returned the ball to Sylla at Zone 4 for an attack but was dug by Popovic. However, the dig went directly to Malinov who attempted to spike but was blocked by Mihajlovic. Chirichella then saved the ball which crossed to the Serbian side.
Bosetti made a magnificent save on a spike that Boskovic, Ognjenovic, and Mihajlovic executed. Egonu’s set on Sylla was sent back by Veljkovic and Ognjenovic. Bosetti then passed it to Malinov who then set Sylla but was called for a double touch.