Italy Edges USA to Win Women's World Championship

Sept. 16, 2002

Berlin, Germany - The gold medal match of the 2002 Women's Volleyball WorldChampionships boiled down to too much Elisa Togut and not enough KebaPhipps.

Togut scored a match-high 32 points as Italy defeated the United States,3-2, Sunday in front of a sellout crowd of 9,000 fans at Max-Schmelling-Halle. The Americans played the match without Phipps (Lakewood,Calif./Foppapedretti Bergamo), who suffered an eye injury in practiceSaturday and was unable to suit up for Sunday's match.

'When I realized that Phipps did not play, I first of all was quitehappy, not because she was injured but because she is a very goodplayer,' said Italian head coach Marco Bonitta. 'At first it was adisadvantage, however, because we had prepared for a game with her. Butat the end of the match it was an advantage because she is a veryexperienced player.'

Even without Phipps in the lineup, the United States found itself tiedwith Italy, 9-9, in the fifth and deciding set of the match. That's whenTogut took control, powering home three straight winners to give Italythe lead for good. Another Togut kill ended the match and Team USA's 10-match winning streak in the tournament. After the match, she was honoredas the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

In all, Togut ripped 30 kills in the 18-25, 25-18, 25-16, 22-25, 15-11victory to guide Italy to its first-ever Women's World Championship. Theteam's highest finish before this year was a fifth place at the 1998World Championships in Japan.

'I congratulate the U.S. team; they showed great strength although theywere missing a very important player,' Bonitta added. 'I think ourvictory was deserved and important. My players were very nervous in thefirst set and made many unforced errors. They improved at the beginningof the second set.'

Anna Vania Mello (nine kills, four blocks, one service ace) and FrancescaPiccinini (10 kills, three blocks, one ace) each scored 14 points andSimona Rinieri added 12 points on nine kills and three blocks in the win.As a team, Italy outblocked the United States, 14-12, the first team todo so in the tournament.

'We made the decision that she would not play (today) and it was theright decision,' said Team USA head coach Toshi Yoshida. 'The team playedwell without her, but naturally she was missed.'

Phipps, who was averaging 12.3 points and 2.1 blocks per match, wasreplaced in lineup by team captain Tara Cross-Battle (Houston, Texas/LongBeach State). Cross-Battle scored six points on Sunday on five kills andone block.

Tayyiba Haneef (Laguna Hills, Calif./Long Beach State) led the UnitedStates with 21 points on 21 kills as the team equaled its best-everfinish at a World Championship (second in 1967).

'Italy deserved this victory because they showed a great performance andhave very good players at all positions,' Yoshida added. 'My team playeda good tournament, but today Italy was the better team. We shall learnfrom that experience. We kept fighting and I am proud that my team cameso far.'

Heather Bown (Yorba Linda, Calif./Hawai'i) scored 15 points on 10 kills,four blocks and one ace and Logan Tom (Salt Lake City, Utah/Stanford) had14 points on 12 kills, one block and one ace as Team USA finished theseason with a record of 17-18 overall. Not bad considering the team was 7-17 to start the tournament.

Danielle Scott (Baton Rouge, La./Long Beach State), who captured 'BestBlocker' honors, added 12 points on seven kills, four blocks and one acein the loss. For the tournament, she led all players with 38 stuff blocksin 41 sets, an average of 0.93 per set.

'I congratulate the Italian team that played very well today,' said Cross-Battle. 'I am proud of my team because they did a great job throughoutthis World Championship. I give credit to our coach who prepared us verywell. I am hoping that he will continue to coach us until the 2004Olympics. Of course it is disappointing when you have made it into thefinal and lose. We lost the gold medal.'

courtesy of USA Volleyball

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