Serbia, tears of joy

Italy will lock horns with Serbia on Sunday in the final of the FIVB Volleyball Women's U20 World Championship. Entering the most exciting phase of the competition, the atmosphere at the Topsportcentrum Rotterdam was vibrant as the two semifinal matches took place in the Dutch city.

In the first fixture of the day, the Italian squad outplayed Russia. Serbia met the co-hosts from the Netherlands to eventually cause their first loss, and grab the other remaining spot in the grand finale.

Earlier in the day tomorrow, Sunday, Russia will face the Dutch team in the battle for bronze.

Italy will play for the gold of the FIVB Women’s U20 World Championship for a second consecutive time after having reached the final match back in 2019 when they lost to Japan after a five-setter.

On Saturday, the players of Massimo Bellano claimed a 3-0 win over Russia, showing greater determination and recording successful blocks in the important moments to emerge victorious. Russia saved one match point in the decisive third set.

The Russians fought hard, and finished the match with 48 winning spikes (47 by the Italians), but a better performance on the block sealed the deal for the Italians (nine blocks in the match compared to four by the Russians).

Across all the three sets, Italy and Russia followed each other in the score, delivering many turnarounds. However, Russia lacked precision in the important points and could never record a break point after the 20th point, while Italy seized all their opportunities, showing nerves of steel.

Giorgia Frosini and Vita Akimova with seven points in the first set each started their own “battle” for top scorer of the match. Eventually, Akimova topped the charts with the match high of 22 points, while Frosini finished with 19.

"In all the three sets, we could score the points that make the difference. Now we are thinking about tomorrow - we are ready and we will give our best in the Final!", Loveth Omoruyi, opposite hitter of Italy commented after the match.

Serbia's heart-stopping victory kept the Dutch and Serbian fans at the Topsportentrum Rotterdam cheering up until the last referee whistle. The Netherlands saved as many as six match points, but suffered their first loss only a step away from the final.

Serbia, led by Vanja Savic, disappointed the Netherlands in the first set, outperforming them on all counts. The Dutch girls responded immediately, taking the second set, and completing sharp attacks. Jolien Knollema dominated on the court in these moments, while Serbia let unforced errors affect the score.

The Netherlands and Serbia then played a cat-and-mouse game at the net. The Serbian players dominated on the block, while the Dutch recorded more points on their opponents’ errors. The players of Vladimir Vasovic were more precise at 23-23 in the third set, taking the important 2-1 set lead.

Minja Osmajic with sharp serves in the fourth set at 15-15 caused problems for the Dutch reception. The Netherlands saved as many as six match points, but the Serbian players showed mental toughness and will now play for the gold.

Serbia outperformed their opponents in all the areas besides the attack, where Knollema and her teammates were slightly superior (55 to 53). The Dutch opposite hitter finished as top scorer hammering 24 points. For the winners, Branka Tica was the best scorer with 16 points.

"It is amazing! I don't have words to describe the feeling! We left our hearts on the court, we gave all our energy! Tomorrow we play Italy, we lost to them in the previous stage, but we will prepare, and we will play for the win!" said Serbia opposite Isidora Kockarevic.