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Goncharova stars as Serbia beat Russia in five-set epic

 
Kyoto, Japan, June 24, 2016 - Serbia beat Japan 3-2 (23-25, 25-27, 25-21, 25-20, 15-12) in an epic World Grand Prix Group 1 match on Friday, with the prolific Nataliya Goncharova's game-high 20 points not enough for Russia to win their seventh successive match.

The win was remarkably Serbia's fourth five-set World Grand Prix match in a row, but in this one, Stefana Veljkovic's team-high 15 points helped them claim the spoils after more than two hours.

The match started with fairly even exchanges, as Irina Zaryazhko was blocking well for Russia and Jovana Brakocevic strong for Serbia. Goncharova was making her presence felt through the mid stages and a block from Tatiana Kosheleva helped Russia take the opener 25-23.

Veljkovic was blocking well to begin the second and some Russian errors helped Serbia take a 15-11 lead. Veljkovic continued her good form, but Russia came storming back into the set. Tijana Boscovic was doing her best to get Serbia level, but five points from Goncharova in the set helped Russia take a two-nil lead.

The third set was a steady back-and-forwards affair and scores were tied at 17, before another brilliant block from Veljkovic allowed Serbia to take a 21-19 advantage, before they went on to take it 25-21.

Serbia maintained their ascendancy in the fourth set and claimed it 25-20 to set up the deciding fifth set.

Boscovic was again imposing and despite Goncharova's best efforts, Serbia were too good in the fifth set and won it 15-12 to win back-to-back five-set World Grand Prix matches for the first time. Goncharova's 20 points extended her Group-1 best scoring tally to 140.

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