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Defending champion Brazil defeats Russia 3-2

Tuesday - 8/7/2012, 2:15pm  ET

AP Sports Writer

LONDON (AP) - Defending champion Brazil denied Russia match point six times before winning 3-2 Tuesday and advancing to the women's volleyball semifinals at the London Games.

Brazil has reached the semifinals in the last seven Olympics. The team's only gold medal came at the Beijing Games when it went undefeated and beat the United States in the final.

Fernanda Rodrigues' ace set up Fabiana Claudino's kill for the 24-26, 25-22, 19-25, 25-22, 21-19 victory. Brazil's coaches joined the players in a celebration at Earls Court.

Brazil advances to Thursday's semifinal against Japan, which outlasted China 3-2 (28-26, 23-25, 25-23, 23-25, 18-16) in an earlier quarterfinal.

Russia has won four gold medals in women's volleyball since the sport joined the Olympics sport in 1964, but none since 1988.

Sheilla Castro scored 27 points for second-ranked Brazil. Ninth-ranked Russia was led by Liubov Shashkova with 28 points for ninth-ranked Russia.

Brazil's Fernanda Ferreira badly missed on her swing for a kill to put Russia ahead 24-23 in the first set. Castro's spike went wide to give the set to the Russians. Brazil rallied to go up 12-7 in the second set as Thaisa Menezes spiked for set point.

Midway through the third, when Claudino served into the net and subbed out, Jose Guimaraes pulled her aside to offer encouragement.

Castro's wide spike gave Russia a 12-11 lead and Liubov Shashkova's kill extended it to 19-15 before her block won the set. Brazil trailed by as many as four points early in the fourth, but rallied to go ahead 9-8. Playing with emotion and wildly cheering each point, the Brazilians were a sharp contrast to the more serious Russians.

Menezes' spike set up set point, but then she served into the net. Claudino's block sent the match to a deciding set.

Brazil defeated the Russians in straight sets in Beijing. The two teams have each won three matches against each other in Olympic competition.

The two teams also met in the 2010 world championships final, with Russia winning 3-2. Brazil beat Russia in their last meeting in the 2011 World Grand Prix semifinals.

Late last year Brazil surrendered its four-year hold on the No. 1 ranking to the U.S., but the Brazilians were still considered a medal threat in London.

Then Brazil unexpectedly struggled in the preliminary round, going 3-2 with losses to the U.S. and a three-set upset by South Korea. They needed a victory over Serbia in the round's final match to advance.

Russia was undefeated in the preliminary round to clinch the top seed in its pool.

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