Montreux, Switzerland, September 4, 2018- Reigning Montreux Masters champions Brazil, inspired by the influential duo of Gabriela ‘Gabi’ Braga Pereira and Rosamaria Montibeller, overturned a one-set deficit to clinch a 3-1 (24-26, 25-21, 25-21, 25-23) victory over a spirited Russia in a pulsating Pool B contest at Salle Omnisports du Pierrier.
It was 4th vs 5th respectively in the FIVB World Rankings, and there was little to separate the sides throughout a tense contest wrought with heart-stopping rallies, Gabi and Rosamaria proving the catalyst for Brazil’s victory with a combined 34 points between them. Vadim Pankov’s Russia, however, can take heart from an inspired performance of their own, particularly from deadly duo Nataliya Goncharova- who notched the highest individual haul of the game (19 points including 18 spikes)- and Kseniya Parubets (14).
The game started in a pulsating opening set, the youth and energy of Russia coupled with their height and presence at the net causing the defending champions a variety of problems, Nataliya Goncharova, Ksenila Parubets, and Irina Fetisova breaking through the Brazilian rearguard with a string of impressive spikes. Yet with youth comes inexperience, and it was Russia’s discipline and susceptibility to individual errors which helped keep Brazil within reach throughout the opening set, three errors coming in a row at one stage courtesy of Parubets and Goncharova to make the score 14-16 in favour of Russia midway through the set. Having re-established a lead, the erratic side of the Russians’ game reared its head once more, ill-discipline at the net followed by a reception error allowing the Brazilians to build an attack, with Rosamaria spiking down to level at 22-22. Parubets responded with a point before a double block from Fetisova and Romanova paid off at third blocking attempt to clinch a heartstopping rally, leaving Russia at set point. After Gabi’s spike forced deuce, the Russians were beneficiary of an overturned decision from the referee, who having awarded a point to Brazil changed his mind after consulting with his assistant. Back at set point, Voronkova rose highest to power home and force Gabi to block the ball out, snatching a 24-26 opening set win for the Russians.
Pankov’s young side made the early headway once again in the second set, holding an 8-14 lead midway through proceedings after a powerful Voronkova spike. From there, Brazil began to show their credentials as reigning champions with a spirited fightback. A fluid move was crowned by a Danielle Lins spike before three successive blocks courtesy of Ana Carolina ‘Carol’ da Silva and Rosamaria helped Brazil force parity at 15-15. An exchange of points saw the score extend to a 17-17 stalemate before Brazil edged ahead, Thaisa Menezes with a crucial block to help them into a 19-17 lead. Fe Garay then notched a stylish point, her spike forcing a block which rolled across the net and out for a Brazilian point. The Brazilian block was beginning to take its toll on the Russians, Fe Garay rising in a trio with Thaisa and Drussyla Costa to block for a 22-18 lead, before Thaisa took the Brazilians two from the set with another block. The impressive Fe Garay then caught Krotkova napping from a serve to notch an ace, with Rosamaria’s attempted spike flying out from a Russian touch to clinch a tight second set 25-21 and restore parity overall.
With a foothold in the game, Brazil’s superior experience began to make its mark, Rosamaria accepting a gift of a point from Goncharova’s error to open an early 10-4 third set lead. With the rallies intensifying, it was Brazil who had the edge- Thaisa and Drussyla clinching two nerve-shredding exchanges before a fine Rosamaria spike capped off a flowing move which had pulled the Russians over to one side of the court to leave space free. Roberta Ratzke added further veteran’s swagger with a deft touch over the net for 21-17, Goncharova’s stubborn resistance keeping Russia in the tie with a powerful string of spikes in response. After a Gabi strike and a block from Thaisa put Brazil in reach of a third set win at 23-19, Russia’s inexperience reared its head again as two faults from the serve by Kotikova and Zaryazko handed Brazil a 25-21 set win and a 2-1 lead.
But the Sbornaya wouldn’t surrender the points easily over the fourth set, Pankov’s youngsters standing toe-to-toe with the champions with the score 13-15 for the Russians after some sterling defensive work at the net. Gabi’s cute touch over the net settled Brazil’s nerves once again, however, before an ace from Danielle Lins deadlocked the set at 15-15. The impressive Voronkova for Russia then fired a spike through the helpless Brazilian Libero Suelen Pinto before Fetisova touched over the net for a 15-17 lead to Russia. Yet, as champions do, Brazil came back again, Thaisa and Rosamaria responding before the Russians stole a rally point from the Brazilians when it looked for all the world that Thaisa had touched down for the score. A flurrying exchange of points ensued and the set was delicately poised at 23-23 following a serve fault from Brazil’s Amanda. Yet it was not to be Russia’s night, Voronkova was unlucky to see an attempted save ricochet out of play, before the lively Rosamaria forced a block out of play to snatch a 25-23 fourth set triumph and a hard-fought 3-1 win overall.
The Russians will have little time to recover from the disappointment of defeat as they prepare to face Cameroon on Wednesday (05.09.18. 16:30 CET) in their next Pool B encounter, whilst Brazil look forward to their evening clash with Poland on the same day (05.09.18. 21:15 CET) as they look to seal their place in the semi-finals.