Macao, China, 28 August 2011 - Defending champion the United States took a sweet revenge on eight-time title winner Brazil to retain the trophy at the US$1,740,000 2011 FIVB world Grand Prix concluding here on Sunday.
Losing 3-1 to the world No.1 team in their pool B clash two days ago, the Americans claimed a well-earned 26-24, 25-20 and 25-21 victory to snap an amazing 13-game winning streak of Brazil in this year's World Grand Prix and pocket US$200,000 top prize.
Destinee Hooker, the Most Valuable Player of the 2011 FIVB World Grand Prix, led the United States with 16 points, with Logan Tom and Jordan Larson adding 14 and 11 respectively.
For the first time the exciting gold medal match was officiated by two female referees, namely Zorica Bjelic of Serbia and Susana Rodriguez from Spain, and the United States started strongly in front of a full packed Macao East Asian Games Dome, jumping to a 9-3 lead. The Brazilian women never give up easily as they steadily crawled back to tie it at 17-all. It was tied at 24-all before Destinee Hooker smashed a ball home to give the Americans the second set point and Jordan Larson converted it with another kill in counter attack.
The second set was also hotly contested before the United States surged away for a 19-15 cushion. After Brazil cut it to 20-18, the United States concluded the set with a 5-2 run capped by a smart shot of Logan Tom. Falling behind 9-4 early in the third set, the Brazilians fought hard to pull within 23-21, only to find Foluke Akinradewo make it 24-21 with a short dink and Larson drive a ball out of bounds for the match winner.
"It is always a challenge to play the Brazil team, they are the best team in the world. For us we had to play with a lot of discipline, focus on trying to work together and stick to the game plan," said USA head coach Hugh McCutcheon. "Our team really performed very well today. I am very proud of them, not just for the victory but also in every match played throughout this long tournament our team made improvement. It is very good for us to see that we could perform at our today when the best is needed."
Pereira Natalia scored 11 points and Castro Sheilla added 10 as the Brazilians, who were playing without Steinbrecher Marianne and Pequeno Paula due to injuries, finished second to the United States for the second year in a row.
"They gave us a lesson of volleyball tonight," said Brazil head coach José Roberto Guimarães. "I agree with Fabiana that we were weak in our defense and blocking. We managed only two blocks in this entire match, and it is very hard to play as the USA team like this. It is difficult to play against the USA because they play at a very high level and they are very consistent.”
Earlier on Sunday, World Grand Prix newcomer Serbia overpowered reigning world champion Russia 25-21, 25-20 and 25-16 in one hour and 17 minutes to win the bronze medal.
Serbian Jovana Brakocevic was the game’s top scorers with 17 points, while Natalya Goncharova earned 10 points for Russia.
"Today I am very happy and very proud of my team. This is the first time Serbia participates in the FIVB World Grand Prix and we won the bronze medal. It is a great success especially we won against a great team like Russia in a major competition," said Serbia head coach Zoran Terzic. “Next we will have the European Championship which is the most important for us. I hope my team will play at the same level in the European Championship."
It was Serbia who started the opening set stronger and found themselves leading 8-5 at the first TTO with an ace produced by Brakocevic. However, a series of unexpected serve-errors gave a chance to the Russians to cut their deficit to one point. The awe-inspiring spikes from Brakocevic and Sanja Malagurski helped Serbia keep on course and take control. Before long the Serbians extended the advantage from 11-9 to 16-9. The Russians used a 4-0 run to pull within 23-21 thanks to a block on the Serbian wing spike, but the Serbians carried the lead till the end of the set.
Serbia jumped into the second set aggressively leading 4-1 with Malagurski striking three successive sharp spikes from the wing, forcing the Russian head coach to call a timeout. However, Russia did not lose touch with the Serbians and countered attack with two concrete blockings on the Serbian side to close the gap to two points. But Serbia powered on again as Malagurski continued her unstoppable spikes to help enlarge the margin to 22-16 and Rasic Milena took another set in favor of Serbia with a middle hitting.
The Russian women, who lost to Serbia 3-1 in their pool A match on Thursday, put up no serious resistance in the third set.
"In the beginning of this tournament our aim was to prove and to see how our core players would perform in this competition, and we can see that our players still need a lot of improvement," said Russia head coach Vladimir Kuzyutkin. "Although we did not get to the final or come away with the bronze medal, we are still happy for the opportunity to participate in this competition."
Galaxy Award: Hui Ruoqi, China
Best Spiker: Milena Rasic, Serbia
Bset Blocker: Luliia Morozova, Russia
Best Server: Thaisa Menezes, Brazil
Best Receiver: Fernanda Rodriguez, Brazil
Best Libero: Victoria Kuzyakina, Russia
Best Setter: Danielle Lins, Brazil
Best Scorer: Javana Brakocevic, Serbia
Most Valuable Player: Destinee Hooker, United States