Wasn’t it Supposed to be an Easy Game?
Updated: Jul 7, 2022
It seemed like a certain victory. The then first-ranked Brazilian volleyball team took on hosts Colombia—currently placed 16th in the FIVB World rank—to decide who would be the Champions of South America.
Brazil was aiming to get their 22nd championship by only needing to win one set. With a fierce desire to qualify for the World Championship, the Colombians entered the court and showed their crowded stadium what they are capable of.
Gabi Guimarães opened the scoreboard with the first point to Brazil, but shortly after Margarita changed the path of the game for the first time putting Colombia one point ahead—4/3. After an error by National team veteran Natalia, the hosts saw themselves two points ahead. The score difference kept getting greater for Colombia as the two time Olympic champions made more and more mistakes. And that’s when coach Zé Roberto knew it was time for the first time-out.
Seeing the point difference get to over twice the points—a 12/5 advantage for Colombia—Zé Roberto made his first changes by putting Rosamaria and Roberta in the game. Their impact was immediate, but the hosts were more determined than ever to keep their advantage. With a block by Natalia, the point difference went down to only three points, but that wasn’t enough to stop the other team. Dayana’s ball hits the opposite side of the court. 25/19. End of the first set.
A second set win would give Colombia a historical accomplishment: a World Championship qualification.
The set started with a great reaction from Brazil, opening a 3/0 scoreboard. But an error from Gabi gave Yeisy an ace and a point ahead in the game. 5/4. Zé Roberto called another time out. Yeisy was hungry for that qualification and with a block put Colombia 4 points ahead of their rivals.
The gym, crowded with passionate Colombian fans, sang and celebrated every point.
As the point difference hit 13/8, Zé Roberto sent Roberta back to the court. But it didn’t work. Constant mistakes by the libero Nyeme did not work in Brazil’s favor.
17 year old Ana Cristina was put back in the game and showed she could change its direction. From a seven point difference, Ana brought it down to three.
By the end of the set, it was all the same.
“Sí, se puede! Sí, se puede!” sang the Colombian fans.
Valerin stopped Ana Cristina with a historical point.
They made it to the World Stage!
The fans went crazy, the players smiled and shed tears of joy.
What seemed like an easy game to the current Olympic silver medalists turned out to be looking like a 2-0 defeat.
They could still win the championship as long as they managed to win one set.
At the start of the third set, Colombia didn’t look as good as they didn’t in the other ones—likely due to the huge accomplishment they had just conquered. For the first time since the starting few points of the second set, Brazil took the lead. 9/6. So close to the title, Colombia equalized the game, but Roberta opened the lead again.
Natália had a shift in her game and went back to what we are used to seeing from her—points! An ace from Roberta opened a 21/17 lead that could give them the South American title.
When the score hit 24/22, it looked like game over. Not for Colombia. They wouldn’t let the title go by like that. From 24/22, it became 24/24. She opened the scoreboard, she closed it. Gabi hit the ball in the opponent’s court and gave her country the title. 26/24.
While both teams were happy—Colombia with their histórica qualification and Brazil with the title—the game itself still needed a winner.
The Brazilian rhythm was back and they took the lead again. Taking advantage of a couple errors by Natalia, Colombia made it 12/11. And more errors. 14/11. Brazil got back on track and reestablished their lead. Colombia equalized and took the lead. Lorenne scored two points in a row and equalized again.
Ace! Gabi opened a 22/21 lead.
That wasn’t enough to stop the hosts. They wanted history. They wanted September 20th 2021 to be a day in the books for Colombian volleyball. 23/25. A historical win for the Colombians.
Now many will solely blame the underwhelming performance of the Brazilians on this result. It’s true, the way that game was played, the amount of errors made against a team that isn’t considered as strong, is not what was expected from Olympic champions, but more than anything this shows how hunger for history changes everything.
Margarita, Amanda, Yeisy, and all the Colombian team knew what they were there for and put up the performance of their lives and guaranteed their names to be forever remembered in the sport.
The international Volleyball season ended, but soon enough the national leagues will be back!