China collected its second win in the second day of the FIVB women's World Grand Prix Finals on Thursday, rallying to beat Italy 3-2 (28-30, 25-22, 26-28, 25-13, 15-10).
China, which had never beaten Italy in the past five years, broke the jinx today. Both teams absorbed many new faces after the London Olympic Games, China in particular.
In today's game, Hui Ruoqi led China with 19 points and other five Chinese players also enjoyed double figures, while Italian top scorer was Valentina Diouf with 26 points.
China had the advantages in serving with eight to Italy's five, but Italy prevailed in blocking with 10-9.
In the first set, Italy began with a flying 4-0 and continued to stage an 11-5 lead due to China's constant mistakes. However, the Chinese began to attack and defense better and two nice spikes by Wang Yimei and Zhang Lei helped China level the score at 14-14.
Then it was a battle with neither team giving ground. China had two-point leads at 18-16 and 19-17 but couldn't capitalize on their advantage. Italy saved five set-points, the fifth on a good block by Carolina Costagrande on Hui. A nicely placed shot down the left line by Costagrande brought the Italians their first set-point and a Chinese error at the net put Italy 1-0 up with 30-28.
China pulled away from 7-7 to 13-8 in the tight second set and led with 19-13, but it was not an easy game for them as Italians closely chased after the points to 23-22. Martina Guiggi did her best to keep Italy alive with some strong kills.
But a nice smash by Zeng Chunlei earned China two set-points. Xu Yunli then made a sweet block on Costagrande at the centre of the net to even the set scores at 1-1.
Italian errors and an ace by Zeng allowed China to move into a 6-3 lead in the third set but Italy fought back to level the scores at 7-7. Wang knocked Italian libero Alessia Gennari over with a thunderbolt to make the score 9-7 and after a response from Indre Sorokaite China got a nice tip-over from Hui.
Italy fought back to level at 15-15 on an ace by Diouf. China earned two set-points on a spike by Wang but sloppy reception allowed Italy to level at 24-24. The Italians saved another set-point before earning one of their own. Sorokaite brought Italy's second set-point and poor reception by China set up Diouf for the winner and a 2-1 in favor of the Italians.
In the fourth set, China brought in 18-year-old Zhu Ting, who warmed up with a cracking blast in a tight opening session. Good serving, including an ace, from Zeng helped China ease into a four-point lead at 9-5.
Three straight kills from Zhu put China 16-9 up at the second technique timeout. More good work from Zhu and Hui saw China expand their lead to 10 points at 23-13. Zeng spiked on Italian defense to earn a set-point and a blocked shot took the match to a tiebreaker.
It was tight again in the fifth set as Diouf laid down smashes and Zhu fought back with a block and two good hits that put China up by two points at the turnaround. A long hit by Costagrande expanded that to three and a super block by Zhu on Diouf gave China a four-point cushion at 11-7.
Match-point came at 14-8 when Italy failed to return a serve by Shen Jingsi and Zeng finished the match with a shot down the middle.
China coach Lang Ping said that the two teams gave the audience a great competition and it was very valuable for Chinese players to learn from these games.
"In sets one and three we had chances to close the game but we missed those opportunities, but we want to use this experience for the future. We used lots of players today and it's good they had opportunities to play against Italy because they're a great team. Hopefully, they can grow and learn from these games," said Lang Ping.
Italy coach Marco Mencarelli said that they were happy because they played a great match against a great team, also because of their better performance than yesterday.
Host Japan crushed Italy 3-0 on Wednesday.
"We made another step towards our best and tomorrow we want to make another step forward. It will be difficult but we will try," Mencarelli said.
On Friday, China will fight against the United States, and Italy will take on Brazil.