Suspense builds as chase for Last 16 heats up at Girls' U18 Worlds


USA's Jessica Mruzik attacks opposite the Italy block of Linda Nwakalor in a five-set thriller at Ismailia on Day 2 of the 2019 FIVB Girls' U18 World Championship.

Ismailia, Egypt, September 6, 2019 - Hosts Egypt, Romania and Japan all doubled their wins at the 2019 FIVB Girls' U18 World Championship as pool play begins to heat up in Ismailia on the Suez Canal and the capital Cairo with the conclusion of Day 2. Yet more tie-breakers at both locations with defending champions Italy and Japan pulling off amazing comebacks were Friday's highlights.

The top four of the five-team pools advance to the knockout stage of the competition.

Three-time world champions Brazil began their campaign at this World Championship with a very convincing win over Puerto Rico 3-0 (25-12, 25-20, 25-13) in Ismailia, as Ana Cristina Menezes and Ana Luiza Rudiger shared top-scoring honours with 14 points each.

Coach Hylmer Dias stuck to his starting lineup throughout, with minimal substitutions. But while Brazil outplayed Puerto Rico in all skills, the South Americans also committed a few too many unforced errors, at 22.

Brazil's Ana Luiza Rudiger gets past the Puerto Rico block of Valeria Otero at Ismailia on Day 2 of the 2019 FIVB Girls' U18 World Championship.

Egypt, meanwhile, shot to the top of the Pool A standings with their second win of the tournament - a 3-1 (25-14, 25-11, 28-30, 25-11) affair over Cameroon in the African derby that would have been far more convincing had they not blown a lead in the third and then three match points.

Cameroon clambered back to extend the game (though quite briefly) when Egypt's Ayah Elnady hit wide to gift Egypt's opponents set point.

Egypt's Ayah Elnady ventures far out near the scorers' table to keep the ball flying against Cameroon in Ismailia for the 2019 FIVB Girls' U18 World Championship.

Defending champions come back from two down
Defending champions Italy were on the verge of opening their 2019 campaign with a straight-set defeat to USA in Pool B in Ismailia. But a couple of, probably desperate, strategic changes by coach Marco Mencarelli, who brought on setter Gaia Guiducci for Sofia Monza and replaced outside hitter Oghosasere Omoruyi with Alessia Bolzonetti triggered an incredible comeback for a 3-2 (20-25, 21-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-13) win.

USA had come within four points of a finishing the game in three when they led 0-2 and 20-21, but then Italy got the sideout and Guiducci stepped up to serve to complete a 5-0 run, including back-to-back aces for the last two points.

It was close again in the fourth with the two sides tied at 23-23, before Linda Nwakalor brought in the last two points with an attack for the sideout and a block on Devyn Robinson for match point to force the tiebreak.

Italy built up a lead fairly early in the fifth, ahead by two at side switch, and extended that to as much as four at 11-7. USA did fight back to tie the score at 13-13, but again the deciding points were Italy's: a spike down the line from the left by Beatrice Gardini followed by an ace from Giorgia Frosini.

Korea rebounded from their opening defeat to Canada by coming back from a set down to register their first win in the tournament, 3-1 (23-25, 25-22, 25-9, 25-23) over plucky Mexico, serving an impressive tournament high 17 aces - five each by Kim Jeonga and Han Mireu.

The Asian side had Lee Seonwoo and Choi Jeongmin score 16 points each, though it was Mexico's Melanie Parra who came in with the match high of 19.

Korea and Mexico captains battle it out on the net, as Melanie Parra blocks Han Mireu in Ismailia at the 2019 FIVB Girls' U18 World Championship.

Russia show their power
Over in Cairo, two-time world champions Russia opened with a show of force against Argentina for a 3-0 (25-19, 25-17, 25-16) on the back of 18 points by Tatiana Kadochkina who attacked for 65% (13/20), served three aces and added two blocks. Elizaveta Kochurina was the top server, with five of Russia's 13 aces.

As was the case with Brazil in Ismailia, Russia coach Svetlana Safronova kept her starters for the whole game and kept substitutions to a minimum.

But Romania now stand top of Pool C, after coming back from a set down to overcome Belarus 3-1 (23-25, 25-10, 25-21, 25-22) to extend their record to 2-0.

The Balkan side totally outclassed Belarus across the board, with Alexia Carutasu bagging a match high 20 points and Francesca Alupei adding 17 more (including seven aces and four blocks).

Japan turn it around
Led by Yoshino Nishikawa's tournament-high 26 points, Japan pulled off a remarkable comeback from two sets down to edge Turkey 3-2 (23-25, 26-28, 25-12, 25-23, 15-9) in Pool D also in Cairo.

Japan could have actually drawn level sooner, but failed to convert a set point in the second at 25-24. Instead, it was Hanife Ozaydinli who blocked Rino Murooka on Turkey's third attempt to give the Balkan side a 2-0 lead.

Turkey still had a chance to take the game in the fourth, as they exchanged sideouts with Japan all the way until 23-23, when back-to-back attacks by Nishikawa took the game into a tie-break.

Yoshino Satotries to beat the block of Turkey's Damla Tokman as she helps Japan come back from two sets down in Cairo for the 2019 FIVB Girls' U18 World Championship.

And in other Pool D action at Cairo, Peru recovered from their five-set defeat to Bulgaria on the opening day by shutting out rookies Congo 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-10), with coach Natalia Malaga giving time on the court to all her players.

Quick links - Volleyball:
FIVB Volleyball Girls' U18 World Championship
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