South Korea reaches Olympic volleyball semifinals-A A +A
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
LONDON — Kim Yeon-koung scored 28 points as South Korea surprised Italy 3-1 Tuesday night to earn an Olympic semifinal match against the U.S. women's volleyball team.
The top-ranked U.S. women swept the Dominican Republic in an earlier quarterfinal. Brazil and Japan will play in the other semifinal on Thursday.
Fourth-ranked Italy, which was among the favorites heading into the games, came out strong but ultimately couldn't keep up with the quick No. 15 South Koreans, who won 18-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-18.
The South Korean players linked arms and spun around in circles on the court to celebrate the victory.
"It's great to win this," Kim said. "I can't express my happiness."
South Korea's best finish in the Olympics was the bronze medal at the 1976 Montreal Games. Italy has never medaled in volleyball, which became an Olympic sport in 1964.
Tuesday's quarterfinal was the first time the two teams had met in the knockout round of the Olympics. Italy scored an early-round victory over the South Koreans in Athens, and South Korea had a 3-2 win in Sydney.
Antonella del Core had 15 points for the Italians, whose only loss in the opening round was against Russia.
"We were very nervous, that's what went wrong," del Core said. "We didn't have patience and they were very strong defenders."
South Korea concluded the preliminary round with a five-set loss to China. A five-set match was the only way mathematically for both teams to advance to the quarterfinals. Had one team won all three points, the other team would have had to depend on results later in the day.
Both coaches emphatically denied that they had purposely pushed the match to five sets to ensure a quarterfinal berth for both teams.
Kim was the preliminary round's highest scorer with 137 points.
"They absolutely deserved this victory," Italy coach Massimo Barbolini said. "They played better than us."
Earlier Tuesday, defending champion Brazil denied Russia match point six times before winning 3-2 to earn a spot in the semifinals. They will face Japan, which used finesse to counter strength in a 3-2 victory over China. (AP)