Boskovic spikes through the American block

Serbia stayed on track to defending their title and progressed to Saturday’s final of the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship 2022 after mastering a 3-1 (25-21, 25-20, 17-25, 25-23) semifinal victory over Olympic champions United States at Arena Gliwice in Poland on Wednesday. It is the second time the southern European nation will play in a World Championship final, after winning the first one four years ago in Japan, while the Americans will try to make it to their sixth podium by winning the bronze medal match on Saturday in the Netherlands.

· Watch all FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship 2022 matches live on Volleyball TV.

Serbia’s star opposite and captain Tijana Boskovic had another fabulous performance on the court and produced the match high of 33 points, including a kill block. Her 32 spiking points came at a success rate of 59%. Outside hitter Bianka Busa contributed another 15 points to the victory. On USA’s side, outside and captain Kelsey Robinson led the scorers with 18 points, followed by opposite Andrea Drews with 14.

A successful attack by Drews, followed by an ace from outside hitter Alexandra Frantti, put USA at an early 2-0 lead. Serbia reacted immediately and, after two spiking points in a row by Boskovic, took a 3-2 advantage. The gap widened to two points at 8-6, but the Americans levelled it at 8-8 on an ace by setter Jordyn Poulter. However, with Boskovic and outside Brankica Mihajlovic on fire in offence, the Europeans broke away with a six-point lead (19-13, 20-14). A series of four consecutive points crowned by another ace from Frantti brought USA back to within two at 20-18, but not close enough to catch up. Boskovic scored her 10th point of the set to bring in set point at 24-19. Moments later, middle blocker Jovana Stevanovic took advantage of a perfect back-slide set to close it off at 25-21.

The second set was quite competitive through 8-8, but then Serbia scored four in a row, with Stevanovic spiking for 11-8 and blocking for 12-8. The Americans battled on to catch up at 14-14 and even take a 15-14 lead on a monster bock by middle Haleigh Washington, but shortly after that Stevanovic hammered two back-to-back aces to put Serbia back in control at 17-15, this time for good. In the mean time Boskovic fired another 10 points in offence, including the last two of the set, for 24-20 and 25-20.

Serbian setter Bojana Drca spiked on two for 6-5 and followed up with an ace for 7-5 in the third set, but that lead did not last long. Three in a row put the USA in charge with an 8-7 edge. After 11-10, sub-in Kara Bajema scored two in a row, with a block-out hit and an ace to set off an amazing American run of seven consecutive points for 18-10. Robinson led her teammates, spearheading the attacks on the way to a nine-point tally in the set and a 24-16 set point, which Drews converted to a 25-17 close with a powerful swing.

Serbia built up an early 8-4 advantage in the fourth set, but this is when USA’s serving started working well to help bring them back into the set. First, Poulter aced to narrow the gap down to 8-6, middle Chiaka Ogbogu levelled the score at 10-10 with an off-the-net ace, and then Drews fired two serving points in a row for a 13-11 lead. However, the reigning world champs had no intention of backing up and regained control on an ace of their own from Busa for 17-16. Boskovic was once again fired up in attack to lead her team to victory. On the way to piling another 10-point tally for the set, she brought in match point at 24-21 and delivered the match winner at 25-23.

“I have no words! We had such a difficult job today, because we all know that USA are one of the best teams and we knew that it was going to be really hard,” said Serbian middle blocker Mina Popovic after the game. “Yesterday’s match was the hardest we played at this tournament, and then we rested as much as possible to reset our minds. There was a little bit of everything in today’s match and this time it was on our side.”

The other semifinal, between Italy and Brazil, will be played in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands on Thursday at 20:00 local time (18:00 GMT).