Rotterdam, Netherlands, June 5, 2018 - A Paola Egonu led Italian team won its fifth straight game as the Squadra surprised European champs Serbia 3-2 (19-25, 25-21, 25-21, 18-25, 15-13) in Tuesday's action at the 2018 FIVB Nations League.
It was a result that could have gone either way right until the death and had the crowd in Rotterdam screaming to the rafters. Egonu's heroics led the way for Italy as the Opposite spike topscored with an astounding 28 points, including four blocks.
Elena Pietrini was also instrumental in her team's win with 14 points while Lucia Bosetti was limited to just 11.
Tijana Boskovic's 26 points simply were not enough for a Serbian side that struggled with consistency, making 30 unforced errors in just their second defeat of the tournament.
With eight victories to a single loss, Serbia headed into week 4 as the firm favourites while Italy were looking to turn things around, having won just four of their last nine games. The Serbs have also won four of their last five major world level encounters with Italy, including their last two: 3-0 at the 2016 Olympic Games and 3-1 at the 2017 World Grand Prix.
Italy had a terrible start as Serbia raced to an early 4-0. An impressive rally, following a time out called by coach Davide Mazzanti, helped the Italians regroup but Serbia's block turned on the style (11-4). If Elena Pietrini finally found the target with a couple spikes to overcome Italy's unforced errors, it was too little too late (16-9) and the Balkan side claimed the first set off the back of Tijana Boskovic (25-19).
With another start at the service, the Balkan outfit looked like they were going to run away with it again but Italy have already showed that they are a formidable opponent and clawed back into the game (8-6). With the wind in their sails, the Italians seemed unstoppable with a great run that opened up a five-point advantage for the Squadra (13-8). But Serbia clawed back into the game, with both teams matching each other blow-for-blow (16-14). As Paola Egonu stole the show, Italy managed to remain on top (25-21).
It was incredibly tight straight from the start of the third but Serbia were up by five at the first technical time out thanks to a great run of points and a solid performance at the service line (8-3). The Serbs had the momentum and continued their push forward with yet another Stefana Veljkovic spike (16-11). A last minute rally saw Italy back in the contest as the lanky Cristina Chirichella blocked everything in sight (25-21).
Lucia Bosetti proved near impossible to stop at the net as Italy came back into the fourth set against the European champions (8-6). The Serbs, now in control, continued to look very strong as Boskovic spiked (17-13). The Balkan side, led once again by Boskovic, leveled at 2-2 following a strong blocking
performance and the high flying outside hitter (25-18).
In the breaker, Serbia once again started well but Chirichella once again staring at the net stopped the Balkan side dead in its tracks (6-3). And when Pietrini made spike after spike there was nothing stopping the Squadra (10-7), especially as Egonu managed a great kill to increase her side's lead (12-8). And the hitter of Nigerian descent was rightfully the one to wrap it up and cause an impressive upset against the European champs (15-13).