Italy beats Brazil to win women’s volleyball Nations League crown

Reigning European champion Italy upset Latin heavyweight Brazil to win its first-ever FIVB Volleyball Women’s Nations League title this week.

The Italians won the match 25-23, 25-22 and 25-22 in an exhilarating final that lasted 80 minutes in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Italy’s Paola Egonu, who will play for Turkish powerhouse VakifBank next season, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP).

Earlier in the day, last year’s world champion Serbia defeated host Turkey 3-0 to claim third place in the tournament.

In the final, Italy hammered out the 3-0 win over Brazil and left the South Americans with a third consecutive VNL silver.

Italian star opposite Egonu once again led her team from the front with game-high 21 points, including three blocks, toward the three-set victory. Outside hitter Caterina Bosetti added another 11.

For Brazil, opposite Kisy Nascimento was the top scorer on 14 points, followed by captain Gabriela Guimaraes on 11.

A five-point run, including three kills by Egonu and a block by middle Cristina Chirichella, helped Italy open an early 10-3 lead in the first set, reported the Volleyball World official website.

Brazil fought hard to get back on track but it was not enough to complete a fightback. Italian middle Anna Danesi took advantage of a free ball mistake on the opponents’ side to hammer the overpass for a 24-22 set point. Two serving errors later, the set was over at 25-23 Italy’s way.

The second set was quite close until Bosetti’s gentle touch widened the margin to three, 12-9 for Italy. Shortly after, great hits through the middle by Danesi and Chirichella and a couple of spiking errors by Brazil in between extended the lead further from 12-10 to 16-10.

Once again, Brazil kept fighting to partially close that gap but was never able to recover completely. Egonu attacked between the blocker’s hands to bring in set point at 24-21. A rally later, sub-in setter Ofelia Malinov surprised Brazil with a ball over on two to close the set at 25-22.

Italy was able to break away again right after the technical timeout in the third set, which came at 12-11 Brazil’s way. A solid hit by outside Elena Pietrini was followed by kill blocks from Egonu and Danesi and a successful swing from Bosetti for 15-12.

With sub-in Ana Cristina de Souza pumping additional fuel to the Brazilian offense, the South Americans were able to battle their way back to a 20-20 level.

However, that was as far as the Italians would let them go. They regained control of the scoreboard. Egonu’s off-the-block hit delivered the match point at 24-22 and Chirichella produced the match winner with a monster block for 25-22.

In the bronze medal match earlier Sunday, Serbia made its first-ever VNL podium with a straight-set win over Turkey.

The reigning world champion bounced back from its semifinal loss to Brazil earlier Saturday and claimed a hard-fought 3-0 (27-25, 25-17, 26-24) victory over the Nations League Finals host.

Serbia shut out Turkey in the game, with its outside hitter Sara Lozo on fire with a 62% success rate in attack and a kill block towards a 19-point match high. She was followed by cross-court teammate Bianka Busa with 14 points and opposite Ana Bjelica with 12.

Turkish opposite Ebrar Karakurt was her team’s most prolific player with 14 points, while middle blocker Zehra Günes added another 13, including five blocks.

The lead went back and forth several times during a hard-fought first set, but the gap never got wider than two points.

Even after captain Eda Erdem crowned a four-point Turkish run with an ace, the score was 18-16 Turkey’s way.

Soon after, Busa took advantage of a strong serve to hit the overpass for a 22-20 Serbian lead. Moments later, she spiked off the block to bring set point at 24-22.

Two points in a row by Erdem leveled it at 24-24. She scored again to deny the next Serbian set point as well, but even that was not enough.

Lozo’s successful attack delivered the next opportunity for Serbia to close the set and it did with setter Bojana Drca’s ace for 27-25.