European Champions Italy edged a tough game against the US yesterday to win the Women's World Cup Volleyball tournament for the first time.
Their 25-20, 25-18, 27-25 victory was their 11th straight win in the 12-team round-robin competition, where the top three finishers -- Italy, the US and Brazil -- have qualified for next year's Olympics.
The US ended the tournament with a 9-2 win-loss record and had to wait for the outcome of the Brazil-Japan match yesterday evening to learn what place they would take.
"We made history," Italy captain Eleonora Lo Bianco said. "It was not easy, but we were able to play tenaciously until the end. Although we've already earned a ticket for Beijing yesterday, we wanted to finish with a win."
Italy's coach Massimo Barbolini attributed the victory -- capping an undefeated tournament for the team -- to their hard work "with a little bit of fortune."
"For us, it was important to win the last match, because it's a great result to win 11 matches in a row. My players have [had] a wonderful season, they wanted to finish this way," he said.
US coach, Lang Ping, said her team did not have enough time to prepare together for the two-week tournament.
"They [Italy] have a great team. I think we played well, but at critical moments we made too many errors. We have so much homework to do. Hopefully, we can have more time to train together," Lang said. "In the Olympics, there will be more teams, stronger teams, including Italy. I really hope to have enough time to train. We have a lot to do to become a great team."
Earlier in the day, four-time champions Cuba beat world bronze medalists Serbia in a tight game 23-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-22, and the Dominican Republic came from two sets behind to beat Peru in a nail biting match 23-25, 21-25, 25-17, 25-10, 15-13.
Former European champions Poland outclassed Asian bronze medalists Thailand 25-15, 25-17, 25-22.
Cuba ended the tournament 8-3, with Serbia at 7-4, Poland 6-5, the Dominican Republic 3-8, Thailand 2-9 and Peru 1-10.