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Egonu's talent shines bright as Italy upset China

 

Hong Kong, China, May 31, 2018 - Teenage star Paola Egonu stole the show - delivering a match-high 13 points - as Italy upset China 3-1 (25-18, 25-14, 16-25, 25-18) in third-round action at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League on Thursday.

The 19-year-old opposite spiker just kept coming up big for the Italians, with 12 spikes from 29 attempts, and she continued to enjoy every single moment of it with wild cries as every point was made.

Egonu's partnership with wing spiker Miryam Sylla - responsible for 11 points of her own - was just too much for China and the scenes of celebration afterwards showed just how much toppling the world number one side meant to the seventh-ranked Italy.

A series of huge rallies throughout the match had electrified fans inside the Hong Kong Coliseum, as had every single move China's captain Zhu Ting made.

The 23-year-old wing spiker is treated liked a rock star in these parts and was again the leading force for her team, with a team leading points, despite spending time on the sidelines. Opposite spiker Yang Fangxu also made her presence felt with seven points.

But the night belonged to Italy, who leave Hong Kong now with a record of 4-5 after three rounds of the VNL - and with a whole lot of hope.

The form book had revealed some promising signs for the Italians coming in to the match. In last year's FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix they'd had two wins over China on their own march to second place behind Brazil. They also held a 9-8 all-time lead when it came to matches played on Chinese soil. Make that a round 10.

Italy coach Davide Mazzanti certainly looked like he knew that form as he patrolled the side of the court urging his charges on. It worked a treat early with Egonu and Sylla racing into double figures. For her part, China coach Lang Ping has not been afraid of calling on the services of the younger members of her squad so far in the tournament, safe in the knowledge that as hosts her team have already qualified for the finals.

So it was again on Thursday with 18-year-old opposite spiker Li Yingying substituted in right when the tension was palpable in the first set. The teenager acquitted herself admirably, with three big spikes, before making way for more experienced heads but her star will no doubt continue to rise.

China look now to rebound as they travel north to Jiangmen for round four from June 5 against Brazil, USA and Russia. Italy will meanwhile head to Rotterdam and face Serbia, the Dominican Republic and hosts the Netherlands.

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