Kaliningrad hosted a game between Russia and Serbia, which seemed to be the most interesting duel opening the third weekend of the World League 2013, but it was not, since Russia left no doubts to the European Champions and could insert 3 points into the standings. In the second game of pool B, the young and completely inexperienced Cubans were not able to stand up to Italy at away court in Torino and also did not claimed even one set.
Russia – Serbia 3 – 0 (29-27, 25-14, 25-20)
Russia: Makarov 4, Spiridonov 14, Apalikov 3, Pavlov 16, Sivozhelez 8, Ashchev 8, Verbov (L) and Zhilin 1
Serbia: Petkovic, Kovacevic 5, Stankovic 5, Atanasijevic 14, Petric 11, Podrascanin 5, Rosic (L) and Brdjovic 1, Ivovic, Lisinac
The Olympic champions better than the champions of Europe. Serbia clearly exhausted by a return flight from Cuba and filling the time zone change effects did not get used to Russia in the first World League game this season despite the host played in completely new composition. More than 6,200 crowd could not admire the tallest world class middle-blocker Dimitry Muserskiy or a setter Sergey Grankin, however got a chance to observe spontaneously reacting and celebrating every scored point Alexey Spiridonov, who became the most efficient player of the match with 14 points (61% in attack). While Serbia had to cope with Russia without Nikola Kovacevic and could only rely on Alexandar Atanasijevic and Nemanja Petric.
The opening set saw both teams come out strongly, trading points up to the technical time-out (8-6), but the powerful Russian side then jumped 10-6 ahead. Fine work at the net by Russia meant the visitors struggled to recover, but Serbia finally found their rhythm to level the score at 20-20. They traded points, with the Serbs having a game point at 26-27, but Russia regrouped. Coach Andrey Voronkov took a time-out and his side attacked well to take the set 29-27.
Serbia started the second set slowly, with some mistakes when receiving the ball, letting Russia’s Nikolay Pavlov and Alexey Spiridonov attack effectively. Soon the hosts gained a four point advantage at 10-6. Blocks from Nikolay Apalikov and aces from Evgeny Sivozhelez extended the lead to 18-10, and Russia maintained it till the end of the set 25-14.
It was more of the same in the third set. Russia’s superior attacks, led by Alexey Spiridonov, again gave the hosts the lead. They were 8-6 up at the first technical time-out, and successfully kept their distance. Serbia couldn’t respond, making service mistakes, and Nikolay Pavlov closed the match for the 2012 London Olympic Games gold medal winners.
Nikolay Pavlov and Alexey Spiridonov topped the home side’s scoring with 16 and 14 points respectively, while Aleksandar Atanasijevic scored 14 for the visiting side.
Italy – Cuba 3 – 0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-23)
Italy: Travica 6, Parodi 13, Beretta 4, Zaytsev 19, Savani 7, Birarelli 7, Giovi (L) and Fedrizzi 1, Piano, Rossini
Cuba: Macias, Cepeda 9, Fiel 7, Bisset 9, Fundora 3, Mesa 9, Guttierez (L) and Estrada 2, Alfonso 6, Quintana
The match started with two powerful aces from Ivan Zaytsev, but even though Cuba played well in patches, the European side looked more concentrated than their opponents. Italy stretched into an 8-4 lead, and despite a mini-comeback from Cuba, they held on to take the set 25-20.
Set two saw the Azzurri lead 8-4 again, with Zaytsev and Simone Parodi spiking well, while Dragan Travica and Emanuele Birarelli blocked superbly. Cuba struck through Isbel Mesa and Rolando Cepada, but it wasn’t enough. Italy won the second set 25-17.
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It was 8-4 Italy once again in the final set, and despite Cuba finally raising their game and getting back to 16-15, they could never quite get level. Despite fighting hard, Italy shut out the set 25-23 to win the match.