Italian coach Marco Bonitta shows the same excitement for the World Championship that has been passed on to the fans heading into the Final Round.
Milan, Italy, October 7, 2014 – The FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014 have produced 92 exciting matches over the first two rounds, and 10 more thrilling matches are on tap this week in Milan as the third phase and medal rounds take place October 8-12.
Through the first and second rounds, only 57 percent (52 of 92) of the matches ended in three sets. A total of 16 matches, or 17 percent, were extended to the full five sets and 24 matches were settled in four sets.
Even with so many competitive matches, five of the top teams in the world prevailed in the end. The Milan field has five teams ranked among the top five in the world, and many are not surprised on their arrival in the Final Round. Brazil rank atop the field at No. 1 in the world and are the only undefeated team left in the World Championship. The United States are ranked No. 2, and were undefeated in the World Championship until falling to Brazil on the final day of the second round.
Host Italy, ranked No. 4 in the world, won the second round Pool E after winning all four matches in Bari and are 8-1 overall in the tournament. No. 5-tie China come into this third phase with an 8-1 record, their only blemish a loss to Italy to end the second round.
Meanwhile, two-time defending World Champions Russia were among the favorites to earn a ticket into the Final Round. However, the Russians were nearly knocked out of the tournament following three losses in four matches after having their 17-match win streak snapped by USA to end the first round in Verona. Russia came through in the end, defeating Serbia on the final day of the second round to leap over their European rival to earn the last spot into the Final Round.
That leaves the surprise team of the field, No. 10 Dominican Republic. The squad have won seven of nine matches, and each of the matches produced thrilling action for the fans in the competition hall and on television. Dominican Republic were involved in six matches extended to five sets, including four of their final five matches. They are 4-2 in the tiebreak, which included a five-set win over Italy. Dominican Republic’s only two losses, both in five sets, were to China and Japan to end the second round. Entering the Final Round, Dominican Republic have played 41 sets – eight more than Russia who have played the second most sets among the six teams remaining.
“The main strength of my team is their excellent team spirit,” Dominican coach Marcos Kwiek said “The girls are more experienced now and know how to deal with difficult situations. I feel a strong energy.”
According to Dominican Republic setter Niverka Dharlenis Marte Frica, getting off on the right foot in the tournament boosted her team’s confidence and it snow-balled into reaching the top six in the tournament.
“Our win versus Germany on the first competition day helped us a lot as well,” Marte said. “It gave as the confidence we needed for the rest of the tournament. However, we are still looking going further in this competition. We know we might not be the favorites but we are not afraid of any opponent.”
The Final Round field has two teams from NORCECA (USA and Dominican Republic), two teams from CEV (Italy and Russia) and one team each from South America (Brazil) and Asia (China).
Only three of the teams in the final field have enjoyed a spot on the top step of the medal podium at the conclusion of a World Championship. Russia, along with under the Soviet Union flag, have seven titles. China have won the event in 1982 and 1986, while host Italy took gold in 2002. Surprisingly, both Brazil and USA have not won the World Championship, while Dominican Republic are in unchartered waters with a best-ever 11th-place finish in 1998.