Rotterdam, Netherlands, June 7, 2018 - Italy skipper Cristina Chirichella led by example as Davide Mazzanti's side recorded their seventh win in eight FIVB women's Nations League matches as they beat the Dominican Republic in straight sets (25-18, 25-15, 25-20) to boost their hopes of qualifying for the Final Round.
Fresh from a brilliant five-set comeback win over the Netherlands in the Topsportcentrum on Wednesday, Italy came into the match full of confidence and they got the job done effortlessly whilst showing flashes of the brilliance that took them past the Dutch, as they picked up three vital points that lifts them up to sixth in the standings. Dominican Republic, however, were utterly outclassed and lost for the fifth VNL match in succession and the 19th time in 23 meetings with Italy.
Italy rely on the collective rather than any individual - Paola Egonu was their VNL top scorer prior to this match with only 125 - but they have a sea of attacking riches at their disposal. The imposing figure of Chirichella was the star of the show as she gained an incredible six points from blocks and 10 spikes in a personal haul of 16. The Italians were so fluid throughout a one-sided contest with setter Ofelia Malanov and libero Monica De Gennaro setting the tempo for the likes of Chirichella, Egonu and Elena Pietrini to prosper.
Dominican Republic came into this match on a four-game losing streak, and they never looked like troubling the Italians aside from a much improved third set. Brayelin Martinez was their top scorer with 13 points, which included two blocks, while Jineiry Martinez also assisted with two blocks before hobbling off injured in the third set.
Chirichella illustrated Italy's intent by winning the first point of the match as last year's World Grand Prix runners-up charged into a 4-0 lead, with Dominican Republic coach Marcos Kwiek calling a time out. And despite some improvement from the underdogs, Italy were on a different level with their blockers particularly outstanding and libero Monica De Gennaro peerless once again. Chirichella won 10 points in the opener alone as her side raced to take the set 25-18.
The second set was just as one-sided with Italy's serves exceptionally solid, while their speed and movement was proving too much for a Dominican Republic side who have had a dreadful Week 4. With Chirichella retreating to the net slightly more in this set, Pietrini and Lucia Bosetti began to make inroads with the latter winning points with some exquisite touches. De Gennaro's wonderful pick-up for Egonu to land a spike for 19-14 was the highlight of the set before a trademark Chirichella block sealed it, 25-15.
Italy started the third set half asleep and the Queens of the Caribbean found themselves 6-2 in front. But as all great sides do, Italy pick up points when they need to most. They won nine of the next 12 points to surge into a two-point advantage, and despite falling behind again, Mazzanti's girls responded with five successive points with Pietrini - who finished the match with 15 points - adding some valuable spikes late on as Italy sealed the set 25-20 and a fifth consecutive VNL win.