Lausanne, Switzerland, August 19, 2015 - After winning the FIVB Volleyball Girls' U18 World Championship in Peru, the spotlight was firmly on the Italian girls back home. Even Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was keen to congratulate coach Marco Mencarelli's team.
“Bravissimo! These girls are the future and should aim for the 2024 Olympic Games,” he said, praising the young volleyball players for their efforts to combine volleyball and an education.
Under the motto “NoiSiamoNoi” - roughly translated as ‘It’s up to us’ - the Italy team achieved its dream of winning gold at the FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship in Peru.
“Throughout the World Championship, our motto was #NoiSiamoNoi, a hashtag imagined by our coach, who has always told us to think first of ourselves and then only about the opponent. We did this and won. Before the World Championship, I said that if we won I would cut my hair at the side. Now I have to keep that promise,” said Giulia Melli with a smile. “To get to this medal we really pushed ourselves to the limit. We worked two years for this goal. And in the end, after creating this great group, we did it!”
Perfect teamwork was the secret of their success. The team dropped just two sets in eight matches, defeating USA 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-16) in the final. For Italy, it was the first gold medal ever at this age-group competition and their fifth podium position after previously finishing runners-up once and third on three occasions. However, it was not the first World Championship gold medal for coach Marco Mencarelli, the man behind Italy's success. He also led Italy’s youngsters, including Valentina Diouf, to World Championship victory in Peru in 2011.
“We are all really excited about the result that we have achieved. This group undoubtedly has great potential, but a win is a win. Against all the opponents we were able to impose our game, always putting them in big trouble. The players have made so many sacrifices to get to this goal and I want to thank the Peruvian fans for their support throughout the games,” said Mencarelli, who has put together a united team.
Alessia Orro was named the tournament’s best setter. Paola Egonu was named First Outside Hitter in the All-Star team and was voted the competition’s Most Valuable Player. She contributed 18 points to the victory in the final.
"I am so excited. After the semifinal I was not able to sleep, I was so excited. This victory is an experience we will never forget,” said Egonu. “The individual awards are a very big honour for me. I know very well that I must continue to work hard to achieve even more important things than this wonderful gold medal. Ours has been a fantastic journey, especially since we were able to grow every game, reaching higher levels. I think that what made the difference was the unity of the group. We are all very close. We fought together for every point, never surrendering. Everyone did their best.”
The Italian team's achievements were greeted with great enthusiasm back home. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was not the only one thrilled with the win. A major sports newspaper dedicated an entire page to the Italian team's triumph.
Alessia Orro: "It was really a great victory. Becoming champions of the world is an indescribable feeling. Now we have to celebrate a lot.” And the fans in Italy are certainly celebrating alongside the young team.