DESPITE the tournament being held at home, Egypt’s volleyball girls had to settle for 10th place in the U-18 World Championship
The US won its first ever volleyball gold medal in the girls Under-18 World Championship played in Ismailia and Cairo, reports Inas Mazhar.
The Americans outplayed Italy in the final of the 2019 edition for an epic 3-2 (25-17, 19-25, 25-18, 22-25, 15-10) win.
Brazil claimed the bronze medal after beating China. Japan, Romania, Russia, Peru, Turkey and Egypt finished in the fifth to 10th spots in the 20-nation competition.
Despite the low finish, it was by far the best result for hosts Egypt since 2013. Their best result was ninth in the 2005 World Championship when the competition featured only 16 teams.
The Americans had previously missed two chances at claiming the world crown, losing in the 2013 and 2015 finals, instead taking back-to-back silver medals.
Against the US, Italy was missing its star Giorgia Frosini who had had a brilliant tournament throughout, but was injured just at the very end of the fourth set in the semi-final against China.
And although they started where they left off the night before, with Gaia Guiducci setting, Sofia Monza had to come back on as a starter in the third, helping Italy pull one back to level at 1-1.
But the USA came back strong in the third set, opening with a 5-0 run and retaining a four-point lead at the second technical timeout. Italy closed to within two on back-to-back aces by Alessia Bolzonetti, but the Americans carried on for Jessica Mruzik to send the ball off the block and out of bounds for set point.
The USA opened up a four-point lead by 20-16 in the fourth, but Italy clawed its way back in catching up at 21-21 and going ahead for the first time at 22-23. It went on to get the next two points as well, when Elena Oglivie hit wide and substitute Beatrice Gardini stuffed Emily Londot to force the tie-break.
Italy shot off to a 5-1 lead in the tie-break but it was the USA’s turn to rally back, reducing the gap to just one at side-switch, opening up to two with a block by Kennedi Orr on Bolzonetti.
Two Italian attacking errors, long by Linda Nwakalor and on the antenna by Monza, plus a block by Devyn Robinson on Ajack Malual saw the US reach match point with five to spare. Italy did pull one back, but Malual failed to connect with Monza, setting off the Americans’ wild celebrations.
Londot was top scorer of the game on 19 points. Bolzonetti following with 17.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 September, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.