Italy stuns Brazil at start of VNL Pasay leg

Riccardo Sbertoli celebrates after scoring for Italy. Cesca Rampas
By John Rhey Piamonte

PASAY–A splendid showcase of power and grit propelled Italy to a 23-25, 25-20, 25-15, 25-21 upset against the World No. 3 Brazil to kick off the 2023 Volleyball Nations League (VNL) third leg, held at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The reigning European champion leaned on Yuri Romaño's explosive game as he hammered a game-high 20 points, 16 coming from attack points and four aces. 

"We are very happy for this one. We needed it for the standings. After losing the first set, we regroup and we win the next three sets," Romaño said in the post-game interview.

Starting the last stage of the preliminary phase on a high note, Italy now improved and tied Brazil to a 6-3 slate as Brazil lose hold of its grab of the third spot in the standings.

It was a tight opening set with both teams throwing haymakers with each other but the South Americans managed to pull away after Ricardo Souza's ace and a solid down-the-line hit from Henrique Honorato that capped the first set, 25-23.

Italy then bounced back after a rough 0-4 start in the second set with Yuri Romaño and Alessandro Michieletto leading the charge to even the sets, 20-25.

World No. 4 Italy tightened up their net and floor defense in the third salvo, forcing Brazil to commit a series of errors en route to a lop-sided 25-15 set.

The 6"6 opposite spiker Romaño brought the much-needed scoring push for Italy in the decisive, registering eight attack points in the fourth set alone to thwart Brazil's fightback, 25-21. 

Michieletto added 17 points, 14 on attacks, alongside three aces for Italy. 

"We knew Brazil is a proven team. So we pushed ourselves to play better. We play every point like it is the last," Italy team captain Simone Giannelli uttered.

Brazil's opposite hitters Honorato and Ricardo Souza finished with 15 and 11, respectively. 

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