European champions Russia outclassed Italy in three sets to win the gold medal match at the 2021 FIVB Girls’ U18 World Championship in Durango, Mexico.
Russia are the 2021 U18 world champions
Italy runners-up and USA win bronze against Serbia
Published 03:00, 30 Sep 2021
It was Russia’s third gold medal in the history of the event, putting an end to a 28 year drought since the last time they won in 1993; their first was in 1989. For Italy, it was their fourth medal in a row; they won silver in 2019 and gold in the 2017 and 2015 editions.
Powerhouse Russia stunned Italy in the first set leading 20 points to 8, with their towering wall preventing Italian attackers to score. In the second set they jumped to an impressive 11-2 lead with outside hitter Daria Zamanskaia scoring nine consecutive aces. Italy’s offence reaction in the third set helped them lead, 19-16 which Russia reversed with strength at the net and good defence for their straight set gold medal win.
Russia ended with an impressive 18 points against 8 in the blocking category; they also led 32-30 in attacks and 6-5 in serves. The winners scored on 19 opponent errors and limited theirs to ten.
Middle blockers Natalia Suvorova and Varvara Sergeeva, alongside opposite hitter Alina Popova led Russia with 12 points each, and outside hitter Anastasiia Kapralove registered 10 points.
On Italy’s side, outside hitter Julia Ituma topped scoring with 13 points, followed by outside hitter and captain Giuliana Dominika with 12 points and middle blocker Islam Gannar collected 11 points.
Top scorer of Russia Natalia Suvorova said they were really nervous the night before, but focused on what they needed to do, “this is our reward, we are the best and world champions”. Talking about what marked the difference between Russia and Italy she added “I believe our blocking and serves were crucial in today’s victory”.
In the previous match, United States won the bronze medal match to Serbia in four sets.
The most battled set was the third, The United States first recovered from a five-point deficit (13-18) only to lose to Serbia by a close score. The United States’ attacks edged Serbia reaching a 20-8 lead in the fourth set; still the U.S. missed five match points (13-24) before their bronze medal victory.
The United States held a comfortable 51-39 advantage in attacks, 15-11 in blocking and a slim 9-8 margin in serves.
The United States' tough offense came from five players scoring in double digits, led by outside hitter Mckenna Wucherer and middle blocker Rebekah Allick with with 16 points each; Wucherer led with 5 aces and Allick with 5 blocks. Outside hitter Harper Murray collected 15 points, outside hitter Chloe Chicoine a total of 13 points and middle blocker Margaret Mendelson contributed with 11 points.
Serbia’s top attackers were opposite Jovana Zelenovic with 15 points, outside hitter Una Vajagic and middle blocker Iva Sucurovic 13 points apiece.
McKenna Wucherer, outside hitter of United States said: "We fought our hardest, we never wanted to leave here without some hardware, we played our hearts out and it paid off.”