USA won a historic gold medal at the 2019 FIVB Girls' U18 World Championship here on Saturday night, outlasting defending champions Italy 3-2 in an epic and intense battle that provided memorable thrills with its ups and downs.
Girls' U18 Worlds gold historic moment for USA Volleyball
Published 11:00, 14 Sep 2019
USA were led by Jessica Mruzik who was named the tournament's MVP, heading a star-studded Dream Team.
It was USA's first ever gold in the history of the competition after two failed attempts when they lost in the finals of 2013 (to China) and 2015 (to Italy) and had to settle for back-to-back silver medals.
It was also the first final to go the full length of five sets since 2003, when China beat Italy in five sets. The only other five-set final in the history of the competition was in the inaugural edition of 1989 when the Soviet Union beat Brazil.
Italy had been going for an unprecedented third straight gold, as well as becoming the first country to win the titles of both genders in this youth category in the same year. It was not to be.
Previously in Ismailia, Brazil had rebounded from their semifinal defeat to USA for an exhilarating win in four sets over China to claim the bronze medal and return amongst the world's elite after two poor performances in 2015 and 2017.
Saturday morning, Japan had shut out Romania 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-15) to claim fifth place in the World Championship, on par with their finish last time around, in 2017 - though their best ever performances remain the gold medals they won in 1995 and 1999.
The two teams were neck-and-neck into the final stages of the first set, but first chance they got, Japan clinched it with a crosscourt spike by Rino Murooka from the left.
Romania were poised to draw level, enjoying a 20-23 lead in the second, but Japan made a 5-0 run, Yoshino Nishikawa making the last kill, to take that on too and extend their overall lead, before running away with the third.
Nishikawa and Romania's Alexia Carutasu shared top-scoring honours in the match, on 17 points each.
For Romania this is their best finish ever at a youth World Championship. They had been absent from the competition for a quarter of a century, but had ranked 8th and 9th in their only two previous appearances in the second and third editions in 1991 and 1993.
Russia returned to victories after two defeats on the trot, shutting out Peru 3-0 (25-12, 25-16, 25-15) to rank 7th overall. Valeriia Gorbunova with 14 points and Tatiana Kadochkina with 13 powered Russia who played with six players plus libero throughout - coach Svetlana Safronova not making a single substitution, same as Peru coach Natalia Malaga.
Neither side managed to improve on their all-time best.
Russia are two-time world champions, though that was way back in the inaugural edition of 1989 (as Soviet Union) and in 1993. They were bronze medallists last time around, in 2017.
Peru have twice in the past played a bronze medal match, in 1993 and more recently in 2015 - though a medal still eludes them.
In the capital Cairo, Turkey topped the 9-16 play with a final victory over hosts Egypt 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 25-18) to rank 9th.
This left Egypt unable to match their previous best finishes of 9th in 1993 and 2005.
Derin Ezgi Tasdemir with a match high of 16 points led Turkey.
Earlier, Bulgaria had swept Italy 3-0 (26-24, 25-17, 25-13) for 11th place in their return to the competition for the first time since 1991.
Maria Yordanov scored 14 points as the Balkan side countered Argentina's blocking (7 stuffs to 1) with their serving (15 aces to 4).
Yordanova reached a total of 135 in eight matches to emerge the overall top scorer of the World Championship.
And Korea came from behind in the fourth to force a tie-break for a 3-2 (11-25, 21-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-10) total tournaround over Canada and 13th place in the overall rankings.
The Asians were both oublocked (14-6) and outserved (19-10) by the North Americans, but their defence proved to hard to crack and restricted Canada's attacking efficiency. Korea's Lee Seonwoo and Canada's Kaylee Plouffe were joint top scorers of the game with 16 points each.
Canada returned to a Girls' U18/Youth World Championship for only their second appearance after an 11th place in the inaugural edition in 1989. And they came back with a bang - their presence in Egypt certainly making an impact.
Thailand meanwhile, counted on their 14 aces to balance out Puerto Rico's 16 blocks, as Waranya Srilaoong with 17 points led the Asian side to a 3-1 (20-25, 25-20, 26-24, 25-22) win for 15th place. Puerto Rico's Sofia Victoria collected the match high of 18 points.
16. Puerto Rico