Lee, a Penn State graduate from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, was given her first VNL outing of this campaign and after a quiet start she collected 11 kills and two blocks.
USA won 25-22, 17-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-11 in Conegliano to hand the hosts their first defeat and ensure they became the only remaining unbeaten team of the 16 in the competition.
“I am really proud with how this group the way they fought through,” said Kiraly. “This was a chance for Simone Lee to run us at outside. After a slow start I am really impressed with her ability to continue to make us more and more positive and solid. She was a big part in helping us win in the fourth and fifth sets.”
“We were resilient”
Middle Chiaka Ogbogu reflected: “Beating Italy in this gym is an amazing feeling. I hope we all realise this is a team that got silver at World Championship. Although they did not have their complete team, they really battled and showed us what it means to fight. I am just glad that our team pulled this one out. We were very resilient.”
Although Italy did indeed match the Americans for long periods, their error count of 33 ultimately proved the difference. Fatigue may have been a factor with several of their players having arrived late to the squad after playing in the CEV Champions League final only 10 days previously.
Cristina Chirichella, one of those players who competed in the European showpiece in Berlin, said: “We have played well against a very respectable opponent far ahead of us. We must not forget that just a week ago many of us played the Champions League final and therefore it is normal to be back in the game mechanisms.
“This is a long competition, during which it is essential not to fall after the defeats and not get excited after the victories. Tomorrow we have another very tough challenge against Serbia.”