Tokyo, Japan, May 17, 2016 - Italy continue to impress at the Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament in Japan, a 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-23) win against a plucky Dominican Republic team confirming it is the front runner for one of four Olympic tickets on offer this week.
While Italy can start thinking about Rio, for the Dominican Republic an improved performance against the Europeans does not make its chances of Olympic qualification any easier.
After a disappointing start to the tournament, the Dominican Republic opened the match like a team with nothing to lose. 19-year-old Brayelin Martinez, at 201cms surely one of the most exciting prospects in the world, was tormenting the Italians.
Italy once again elected to start Paola Egonu on the bench, and this time there was no need to rush her into the game early as captain Antonella Del Core continued her excellent tournament, and Serena Ortolani returned to her form of the opening day.
Despite much bravado, the Dominicans were unable to counter the Italians when the set matter, Italy taking the points 25-22.
The Dominican Republic continued to display bravado in the second set, but Italian blocker Cristina Chirichella was proving a major stumbling block.
Chirichella thwarted several of the Dominican Republic’s attacking moves, especially through Martinez, to keep Italy’s nose in front.
Ortolani and Del Core continued to play well, while for the Dominicans, despite the close attention from Chirichella, Martinez took her personal points tally to 15, and Libero Brenda Castillo was in solid digging form.
There were some heart palpitations towards the end of the set, before Italy closed out 25-23.
The third set went the same way – plenty of spirit and endeavor from the Dominican Republic, but the cool-in-a-crisis demeanour of the Italians ultimately triumphing.
One of the telling factors in the match was the different attacking options available to both teams. The Dominican Republic was very reliant on 19-year-old Martinez, and as always she delivered (23 points).
By contrast the Italians had several options, with Ortolani (15 points), Del Core and Miriam Fatime Sylla (both 14 points) providing variation.
Throw in the solid setting and clever tips of Alessia Orro and the outstanding Libero work of Monica De Gennaro, and you have a team which will cause headaches in Rio.
After three impressive wins from three outings, the Italians are close to earning their tickets. For the Dominican Republic it is now 0-3, with The Netherlands looming large on Wednesday.
World Olympic Qualification Tournament websites:Women's WOQT in JapanMen's WOQT in JapanWomen's WOQT in Puerto RicoMen's WOQT in Mexico