Brazil’s outside hitter and captain Gabriela Guimaraes powered the team on the way to their seventh win in the women’s Volleyball Nations League 2022. They opened the third competition week with a 3-2 (25-20, 25-23, 18-25, 21-25, 15-11) victory over China on Tuesday in Sofia to improve to a 7-2 win-loss record and 20 points, standing third in the table. It was the third consecutive defeat for the Asian powerhouse. They are now down to 5-4 and 17 points in fifth place.

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Gabi’s top plays against China

Gabi dominated on the court scoring 21 points in the first two sets alone to help Brazil open a two-set lead. Through the end of the match, she reached a total of 28 points. Opposite Kisy Nascimento took over as the leading point maker in sets three and four, when Brazil’s abundant unforced errors kept China alive to push it to five. Kisy finished the match on 24 points.

Finally, middle blocker Ana Carolina Da Silva owned the court in the tie-breaker to bring her total to 15 points, including an ace and as many as five kill blocks. Her VNL total of 45 stuffs so far puts her 16 clear on top of the best blockers chart.

Four players reached the double digits in scoring on China’s side. Outside hitter Li Yingying put away 20 points, followed by opposite Gong Xiangyu with 18 and middle blockers Wang Yuanyuan (five kill blocks) and Yuan Xinyue with 15 and 11, respectively.

Li Yingying’s top plays against Brazil

Six points in a row, including four by Gabi, gave Brazil an 11-5 lead in the first set. The South Americans cruised on to a 25-20 close, shaped up by Gabi again with a beautiful pipe shot. In the second set, China managed to recover from the five-point lead Brazil had at 18-13 to level the score at 23-23. However, Gabi crowned a beautiful long rally, featuring some great defence on both sides of the net, with another back-row hit to bring set point at 24-23. Then she converted it to a 25-23 win herself with a solid overpass kill.

A monster block and two successful swings in a row by Yingying gave China a 7-4 lead in the fourth set. Brazil reacted swiftly with a six-point run for 12-6, which included four points by Kisy - a tip, an overpass kill, a swing and a monster block. However, with Yingying continuing to deliver (seven points in the set) and Brazil making many mistakes, China regained control on the way to a 25-18 close, with Gong hitting the last point. The Asians took advantage of the opponents’ errors to dominate the fourth set as well. Xinyue hammered through the middle for the 25-21 winner.

Carol aced to give Brazil a 4-2 lead in the tie-breaker, but Gong returned the favour with a direct serving point to draw level at 4-4. Middle blocker Julia Kudiess hammered the overpass on sub-in Julia Bergmann’s serve to give Brazil an 8-5 lead. China got back to within one at 10-9, but the South Americans broke away again to reach match point after an ace by Gabi for 14-10. Three rallies later, Carol monster-blocked for the 15-12 winner.

“We expected a difficult game. We started aggressively, especially with the serve, but in the third set we started making too many mistakes – in serving and in attacking, and this made it difficult to bring out our game from the first and the second sets,” Gabi commented after the match. “In the fifth set, we had to start from zero, with nothing to lose. We brought back our aggressive serve, kept a balanced block-defence and this made the big difference. I hope we stay aggressive and make fewer mistakes in the next matches.”

In their next games on Thursday, China will meet Poland and Brazil will face Korea.

Next at the Arena Armeets competition hall on Tuesday, hosts Bulgaria will take on the Dominican Republic. Over in Calgary, Serbia and Germany will get the week underway, followed by Türkiye and hosts Canada.