MARUOTTI CALMS ITALY’S NERVES AS THEY SNEAK BY SOUTH KOREA
Seoul, South Korea, June 16, 2018 – Italy’s run towards the FIVB Volleyball Nations League finals continued despite a huge scare on Saturday, Gabriele Maruotti’s 15 points eventually leading his side to a 3-2 (25-23, 25-19, 22-25, 22-25, 15-10) win over a gallant South Korea.
The Italians need to collect as many points as they can from this fourth round as they look to secure their place in the six-team VNL finals series. While opposite spiker Giulio Sabbi (15 points) was a hero on Saturday, so far wing spiker Maruotti is doing his very best to make sure they do just that. Saturday’s tally included the match-winning spike and backed up the 30-year-old’s stellar play the night before when he tallied a team-high 17 points as the Italians breezed past China 3-1.
Middle blocker Simone Anzani – with 13 points – was another to shine for the Italians who are using their superior height to great advantage during the VNL’s swing through South Korea and out-blocked the home side 18-8 for the match.
It was Italy’s first consecutive win for the tournament since they opened up their campaign on a 3-0 stretch and coach Gianlorenzo Blengini has his team clicking through the gears at the moment.
How South Korean coach Kim Hochul would like to find some of that magic as his team slumped to their 11th straight loss, despite the efforts of wing spiker Na Gyeong-Bok and his match-leading 16 points.
The Koreans stuck to the task admirably, racing to a 9-3 lead and then holding on for dear life in the third set and then pushing the Italians all the way to the line across the final too. They are certainly due a bit of luck.
Middle blocker Kim Jae-Hwi with 12 points was another player to hold his own in defeat. The fact that they have taken sets off opponents in both matches in Seoul – after only taking two in total over the first three rounds of matches – has certainly given their fans something to cheer.
The Italians were sat in sixth place in the standings – with rivals nations yet to take to the court – after Saturday’s win took their record to 7-4 and they’ll be looking to close out the round unbeaten when they face Australia on Sunday. Another win would keep the pressure right on the teams vying for the last few places in the finals – Serbia and the surging Canadians among them.
The luckless South Koreans remain the only side in the inaugural VNL to have yet to register a victory so far and they round out their home stay with a match against China on Sunday afternoon.
Italy coach Gianlorenzo Blengini: “It was a difficult match We played well through the first and second set, but our reception was shaken by the strong service of Korea. Korea pushed us well with their serve. We tried to solve the problem through changing the right player with better service-reception so we could win the game.”
Italy captain Filippo Lanza: “It was a hard game. Korea were good at defence. Throughout the match, I always thought about how to win. Eventually, we we won with a little luck.”
Korea coach Kim Hochul: “Besides feeling regretful, I think we should have pushed Italy from the first set. After starting with our best squad, I felt I might lose in straight sets, so I changed the players who were not able to show up until today’s match. The atmosphere changed a lot after the substitution.”
Korea captain Moon Sungmin: “All of the players who played in this game had strong will to give their best. From the third set we did our best until the end. Even though losing the fifth set was depressing, I think we have gained more confidence for the next match.”
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