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Italian rising star Julia Ituma lifted Italy into the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship final match against Russia with a match-high of 23 points in her team’s victory against the United States in Durango, Mexico.

Earlier in the day, European champions Russia qualified for the gold medal match by overpowering Serbia in straight sets in their semifinal. The medal matches will be held on Wednesday at the FENADU venue.

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Russia's huge semifinal celebration over Serbia

European champions Russia's scorers put on an impressive display of control in the first two sets of their semifinal. Serbia challenged Russia in the third set, reaching 10-all with better attacks and defence. But Russia recovered, coming from behind (6-9) and then firmly took a comfortable four-point advantage (20-16). Serbia continued to resist but missed three match points (24-18) before their opponent's semifinal victory.

Russia’s offence prevailed with a considerable advantage in every skill. They had 35 points from attacks, against 23. In blocking they led 15 to 11 and had a six to one margin from the service line. Russia limited their errors to 7 points and scored on 19 Serbian errors.

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Russian Setter and captain Viktoriia Kobzar blocks Serbian outside hitter Ksenija Tomic

Opposite Alina Popova was the leading scorer for Russia with 13 points (7 kills, 3 blocks, 3 aces), joined by outside hitter Anastasiia Kapralova and middle blocker Varvara Sergeeva with 11 points each. Sergeeva led in blocks with 6 points.

According to Alexander Karikov, head coach of Russia, Serbia got closer in the third set for two reasons. “My girls were too relaxed because they were doing great and they lost discipline, so our game system broke.”

About the title match he said: “I expect it to be really challenging, both USA and Italy are really good”.

In the other semifinal, Italy and USA reached 15-all in the first set before the North Americans took the lead (18-15) led by middle blocker Margaret Mendelson at the serve. Italy, however, fought back to grab the first set. Their powerful attacking helped them jump to a comfortable 16-10 lead and then a sizeable 23-13 in the second frame. USA narrowed that advantage by scoring five consecutive points, but it was not enough to with the set. USA couldn’t keep a four-point lead (11-7) in the third.

Italy´s players led by 13 to 4 in blocking and by 42-34 in attacks. USA meanwhile led in serves (4-3), and both teams committed the same number of errors (17).

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Italy celebrating scoring against United States in semifinals

Italy outside hitter Julia Ituma’s 23 points came from 20 kills, 2 blocks and one ace. Opposite hitter Giulia Viscioni contributed with 13 points.

USA outside hitter Mckenna Wucherer topped her team's scoring efforts with 15 points.

“For me the difference was our service and blocking. Our service today was perfect and we prepared our strategy based on blocking three main USA attackers, which we succeeded in doing. This was a great result for us,” said Italian coach Marco Nazzareno Mencarelli.