Zhang leads China over Italy at World GP Finals
Zhang Yuehong came from the bench to score 19 points and lead defending champion China over reigning world champion Italy 3-1 at the women's volleyball 2004 World Grand Prix Finals opening in the Southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria on Wednesday.
The 28-year-old Zhang had 17 kills in 29 attempts as China claimed the 25-20, 25-23, 24-26 and 25-20 victory in Pool A.
"Zhang was in brilliant shape and she played very well today," said China head coach Chen Zhonghe. "She won some crucial points for us."
The Chinese women, who lost to Italy on Saturday in the Hefei leg preliminaries, started strongly in the Pool A match as they jumped to a 7-2 lead in the opening set.
After the Italians cut their deficit to 14-13 on back of a 5-0 run, Chen Zhonghe replaced starting spiker Wang Li'na, who was obviously not in shape, with Zhang. Zhang had two kills and a block to give China a 17-15 lead and help hold back the Italian surge.
Then Yang Hao had four hits to help China conclude the set with a 8-3 run.
China ran off four straight points from a 22-20 deficit in the second set to go up 24-22 before Liu Ya'nan made it two sets to nil with a blitz hit.
Italy managed to pull one set back, but China surged away from a 12-10 lead to take an easy win in the fourth and final set.
Earlier on Wednesday, Cuba twice rallied from one set down to beat Brazil 20-25, 26-24, 21-25, 25-19 and 15-12 in a pool B match,ending the latter's nine-game winning streak at the 2004 World Grand Prix preliminary round.
Six teams are competing in two pools at the 2004 World Grand Prix Finals with top two finishers from each pool to qualify for the semi-finals.