Cuba, Brazil advance to women's volleyball semis

Aug. 19, 2008, 1:55 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Brazil keeps on winning in Beijing.

The top-ranked women's volleyball team easily defeated Japan in three sets (25-12, 25-20, 25-16) Tuesday to advance to the semifinals.

The Brazilians, undefeated in preliminary pool play, will face the winner of a late quarterfinal match between host China and Russia.

"I think we are playing good technically, physically and mentally," Brazil's Sheilla Castro said. "We are doing our best all around."

Japan simply could not keep up with the taller and faster Brazilians, who won the first set when Erika Araki's spike fell out.

Paula Pequeno's block sealed the second set for the Brazilians.

When Japan took a 7-5 lead in the final set, Sheilla, as she is known, made a statement with a spike that knocked Yuko Sano over. Fabiana Claudino's spike was the match winner.

Cuba also advanced to the semifinals with a three-set victory over Serbia (26-24, 25-19, 26-24).

Undefeated Cuba, ranked No. 3 in the world, will play the winner of the day's late match between the United States and Italy in Thursday's semifinals.

Even at 24 in the first set, captain Yumilka Ruiz's spike gave Cuba the advantage. The Serbs complained to the referee when captain Vesna Citakovic's fault on a block proved to be set point.

Serbia kept making key mistakes, and Cuba won the second set on Jelena Nikolic's serve error.

After falling behind 21-23 in the third, Cuba prevailed, winning on Nancy Carillo's block.

"We fought, we gave it our best," Citakovic said. "But we also made some stupid mistakes."

Jovana Brakocevic led Serbia with 16 points. Carillo had 12 for Cuba.

Cuba coach Antonio Perdomo Estrella patted Citakovic on the back after the match, sensing the team hadn't played its best.

"Certainly our team has to play better the next two games to win," he said.