The US pulled off a stunning victory against four-time champions Cuba for their second straight win at the women's World Cup volleyball tournament yesterday.
The Americans, who lost to Cuba in the continental championship final in September, got their revenge on the three-time Olympic gold medalists with a 20-25, 25-21, 25-18, 20-25, 15-11 win in Hamamatsu, central Japan.
"I think it's the second time for us to play Cuba over five sets," said the US coach, Lang Ping of China, after the 103-minute match. "When you have a tie-break [in the fifth set], it very much depends on the players and the tempo you have and also a bit of luck. Both teams had a great match, but I think we played well at the important moments."
"All the players are ready from the bench. We try to help each other. It's very important for this long tournament that you should have 12 players who are ready to play," she said.
Cuba's captain Yumilka Ruiz said mistakes cost them the match.
"It was a very interesting match between two big teams. We started out at a high level and hit a lot of good serves, but we made too many errors," she said.
The other favorites, European champions Italy and world bronze medalists Serbia, safely took their second straight wins in Tokyo in the 12 team round-robin competition.
Italy stayed on form to beat Dominican Republic 25-17, 25-16, 25-17, while Serbia, the runners-up to Italy in Europe, faced quite a scare before beating Asian bronze medalists Thailand 25-20, 18-25, 25-17, 26-24.
Serbian coach Zoran Terzic appeared dissatisfied with his team's performance.
"We can be satisfied today only with the result. I hope that we will play much better than today from the next game," he said.
Stefanja Veljkovic said a series of poor serves on her side forced them to struggle.
"It was a tough game for us, because our serves were bad. During the match we tried to regain the form, but it was the problem all the time," Veljkovic said.
Thai coach Nataphon Srisamutnak was happy with his team's performance.
"Our team played much better than yesterday and it was a good experience for us," he said.