Apeldoorn, Netherlands, May 31, 2018 - Tandara Caixeta took centre stage again as Brazil earned a pulsating 4-set victory 3-1 (25-23, 26-24, 13-25, 25-22) over the Netherlands in the women's FIVB Volleyball Nations League in front of a sell-out Dutch crowd.
Tandara's class and power shone through once again as she contributed 31 points to take her tally in Apeldoorn to 85 in 3 matches, but it was the South Americans' fabled defence - with Adenizia da Silva the chief tormentor with 3 block points alongside Tandara - that won them the game against tough opposition.
The Netherlands certainly played their part in a match of high quality - the 3rd set a particular highlight - but despite their spike threats Lonneke Sloetjes and Anne Buijs contributing 19 points apiece, the Dutch attack was held at bay frequently in the face of alert Brazilian defence.
The hosts were edged out in 2 tight opening sets but hit peak form in the 3rd to give themselves a lifeline. The visitors though did an extraordinary job to stem the Dutch tide as they won the big points in the big moments to win the crucial 4th set and wrap up victory.
Brazil win battle of the titans
With both sides coming into this one on the back of 7 wins from 8 games in the Nations League, this was a titanic clash between 2 of the best sides in women's volleyball. Brazil's 8th straight win may not mean much in the grand scheme of things with both sides on course for the Final Round, but there's no doubt this will be a psychological blow for the Dutch as Brazil served notice of their heavyweight credentials with a brilliant victory inside the hostile Omnisport Apeldoorn.
Brazil, winners of 4 of the previous 5 World Grand Prix's, are wise old campaigners with the side having won major competitions on a regular basis, and it was their extra knowhow and ability to play under pressure that got them over the line in this match.
In sets 1 and 2, Brazil were 5 and 3 points behind respectively, yet played with cohesion and quality to turn both sets around in their favour when many teams would've folded.
As for the Netherlands and their coach Jamie Morrison, this result is far from a calamity with the hosts still firmly entrenched in the top 6, but this is the 2nd time they've failed to pick up a point in a Nations League match against 2 of the best sides - USA and Brazil.
Brazilian defence shines bright
Jose Roberto Guimaraes' women are capable of playing an all-court game with Tandara and Amanda Francisco (10 points) extremely potent spike specialists, but it's Brazil's outstanding defence that provides the bedrock and allows these superb talents to prosper.
Suelen Pinto is arguably the best libero in the Nations League and her incredible reflexes were on show again here - her superhuman pick-up on match point dropped over the Dutch net to seal the victory for Brazil.
Captain Roberta Ratzke also falls into the underrated category. The setter was at her premium best - as a server and in open court - as she provided the perfect length and height to her sets with the likes of Tandara and Amanda often finishing off Roberta's fine approach work.
The Brazilians are also the best blocking nation in the competition - Ana Beatriz and Adenizia are ranked 1st and 4th respectively in terms of average blocks per set - and their tenacity at the net was too much in Apeldoorn as they frustrated the hosts' sizzling attack.
Dutch hoodoo v Brazil goes on
The Netherlands have now won only once against Brazil - at the 2007 World Grand Prix - in 24 meetings, but they remain a threat against any side with Sloetjes, Buijs and Maret Balkestein (11 points) all producing strong individual performances.
Star of the show
Adenizia's excellence as a blocker yielded 3 points in a personal haul of 9, but Tandara's 31-point haul, featuring 26 spikes from 49 attempts and 3 block points, was the difference between 2 evenly-balanced teams. Without Tandara, Brazil may have been on the losing side.