Eboli, Italy, June 14, 2018 – Well-seasoned Serena Ortolani showed a very strong performance in Italy’s last game of the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League season, leading her younger teammates to a hard-fought 3-2 (22-25, 25-20, 17-25, 25-19, 15-12) victory over Brazil.
31-year-old Ortolani scored many key points throughout the game and made an outstanding finish of the tie-breaker to pile up a match-high of 20, which included three aces and one stuff block.
19-year-old Paola Ogechi Egonu was not in Italy’s starting line-up for the first three sets, but as she came on court she added the sheer power her team needed to turn things around against the strong South American opponents. She registered the match second highest scoring record of 17 points, including three stuffs and one ace. Anna Danesi was huge in the blocking department, but not only there. Her phenomenal performance contributed seven stuffs, four aces and five kill spikes for a total of 16 points. Young setter Ofelia Malinov was once again truly instrumental to the success of the Italian offence.
Opposite Monique Marinho Pavao was the best scorer on the Brazilian side with 16 points, followed by middle blocker Ana Beatriz Correa with 12, including five blocks.
In the fantastic ambiance at the Pala Sele in Eboli, Brazil took a one-set lead twice in the match with Italy managing to mount a comeback on both occasions. The tie-breaker itself was a rollercoaster ride, with the home side eventually emerging victorious with their 10th VNL win, and putting a stop to a ten-match losing streak against Brazil in the head-to-head series.
Having won the first set with three consecutive kill blocks in the last three rallies, Brazil were cruising in the second with an 11-7 lead, when Italy changed the momentum with an electrifying 10-2 run. It included two aces in a row by Cristina Chirichella, two consecutive stuff blocks by Anna Danesi, a digging point from the hands of libero Monica De Gennaro and four points in a row (one block, two delicate tips and an ace) by Paola Egonu, and made the crowd on the stands completely ecstatic. In the conclusive moments of the set, Ortolani joined in on the fun with three spiking points and finished the set off with an ace to level the match.
On Ortolani’s serving duty, including two more aces, Italy broke away to an early four-point lead, which pre-decided the fourth set, but her truly most precious contribution came at the end of the tie-breaker, when Brazil had just narrowed down Italy’s lead to one point – 13-12. Serena Ortolani took charge and squeezed the ball between the blockers’ hands and the net to bring up match point and followed up with an excellent block to close it all off.
Italy finished the VNL with 10 victories out of 15 matches in sixth place, just below the qualification line for the finals in China. Brazil ended up with 12 wins and will advance to the finals from position 2 or 3 in the standings, depending on the outcome of Serbia’s last match later on Thursday.