Milan, Italy, October 12, 2014 – The United States of America are the new world champions! In front of 12,600 thrilled fans in Milan’s Mediolanum Forum, USA overpowered China 3-1 (27-25, 25-20, 16-25, 26-24) to claim their first FIVB World Championship title ever. It is a historic night for American volleyball, for this is their first ever title in a major FIVB competition.
Despite their legacy of success over the past 30-plus years, the USA had never won the World Championship title - or any of the three major women's international titles including the Olympic Games and FIVB World Cup before.
Best scorer of Sunday’s gold medal match were Kimberly Hill for USA and Chunlei Zeng for China with 20 kills each. USA had the edge in blocking (14-9) and serving (6-5).
USA coach Karch Kiraly: "We came here to make history and we made it. It was a tough battle, but we made it."
USA captain Christa Dietzen: "It's the first time for the USA and we made it. We represented present and future volleyball programs, but most importantly we did it together."
- United States qualified for the final for the second time at the World Championships. In 2002, they lost 3-2 against Italy.
- United States have won two silver and two bronze medals at the world championships and have become the third nation to complete the medal set following Russia/Soviet Union and Japan.
- This was the seventh meeting between China and United States at the World Championships. United States have won four times (1956, 1978, 1982 and today) and China three times (1986, 1990, 2006). United States and China also met in each of the last five Olympic Games, with USA winning the last two matches (2008 and 2012).
- China were in the gold medal match for a record fifth time at the World Championships. Cuba have played a 1-2 final four times.
- China had won their last 13 World Championship meeting against NORCECA countries, since losing the 1998 final 3-0 against Cuba, but not today.
It's not only the USA team that have written history today. There's also a very personla distinction for head coach Karch Kiraly. This is his second gold medal in World Championships. He already holds one as a player for the men's National Team of USA that beat the Soviet Union 3-1 in the 1986 final in Paris. He becomes the fourth person in history to achieve this "double" after the USSR's Aleksei Yakushev and Givi Akhvlediani in the 1950s and 1960s and China's Zhang Rongfang in the 1980s. And only Yakyshev before Kiraly had made the crossover from winning gold with a men's team to coaching a women's team to gold.
Who would have guessed it, three weeks ago that this would be the lineup for the grand final of the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championships? True, USA are second in the FIVB World Rankings and China are fifth. Nevertheless, who would have expected them to beat Brazil? Who expected China to knock out the hosts? Anyhow, both teams had deserved their ticket for Sunday’s gold medal match with a masterstroke in Saturday’s semis.
China quickly jumped out for a 6-2 lead with Xinyue Yuan on fire. Christa Dietzen and Kelly Murphy reduced the deficite to one point at the first technical timeout. There was not much to separate the two teams in the early stages of the much-awaited gold medal battle. Kimberly Hill turned the tables for USA with a service winner at 12-11. It was maybe the key moment in the first set. The United States gained momentum and carried the lead into the crucial moments of the opening set. The Asian side saved four set balls but eventually could not cope with the power and precision the World No. 2 displayed. A four-touch combination of China offered USA the first set 27-25. Foluke Akinradewo led the US team with seven kills. The North Americans had the edge in blocking (5-3) and serving (4-1). Ting Zhu was the best scorer for China with nine points.
Karch Kiraly’s squad kept the upper hand in the beginning of the second set. Jordan Larson Burbach and Christa Dietzen moved the US team ahead to take a four-point lead at the first TTO. China coach Lang Ping immediately sent in Jingsi Shen for starting setter Qiuyue Wei to modify the Asian offensive patterns. It helped as China gradually rallied back to draw level at 12-12. As in the end of the first set, it was hard to pull these two teams apart at that stage of the match. However, the United States kept calm and managed to regain momentum in the decisive moments of the second set. Murphy, Akinradewo, Thompson and Hill helped the North Americans scoring five consecutive points to make it 23-18. It was good enough as the US ladies never looked back. Nicole Fawcett closed it out at 25-20. Christa Dietzen and Kimberly Hill contributed five kills each to the US set win. China super star Ting Zhu had scored only once in the second set.
The gold medal battle remained a close affair in the beginning of the third set and China had not said their last word in this final of the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championships. Hill and Akinradewo fired wildly but China led by one point at the first TTO. China opposite Chunlei Zeng, with remarkable power and speed, moved the Asians forward to gain momentum for China in the middle of the third set. China led 16-10 at the second technical break. China coach Lang Ping had replaced Ting Zhu with Xiatong Liu for the third set and it seemed as her strategy had paid off. The US team had to deal with a fully new set up. Fawcett reduced the gap to five points at 20-15, but it was not good enough. China speedily cruised to a 25-16 set win. Chunlei Zeng and Kimberly Hill contributed seven kills each for their teams in the third set.
However, USA quickly bounced back at the start of the fourth set. Larson Burbach and Murphy aided their side with spectacular winners to regain control. Akinradewo smashed for a 15-11 US lead and Fawcett added a block kill to make it 17-13 for the North Americans. Ting Zhu responded with two kills to reduce the gap to two points at 17-15 but Fawcett – again – and Dietzen restored order at 19-15. However, it was not over yet. China bounced back heroically to turn the tables again. The Asian side booked seven (!) consecutive points to retake the lead at 22-19. USA came closer at 23-22 and Lang Ping quickly called her ladies off court. Hill, with an enormous kill via China’s block, draw level at 23-23 before Akinradewo brought up match point for the United States. China saved one but could not prevent Hill to hammer another spike down at 26-24 and bounce USA in heaven.