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Four-time former champions Cuba outplayed the Dominican Republic 25-13, 25-27, 25-23, 25-18, yesterday, keeping alive the hopes of Cuban team to be among the three finalists.

European champions Italy trounced African champions Kenya for a seventh straight win to remain unbeaten in the women's World Cup volleyball tournament on Saturday.

Seeking their first major title since the 2002 world championships, the Italian women scored a lopsided 25-13, 25-13, 25-5 victory in Sapporo in northern Japan.

The United States, who shocked world silver medallists Brazil on Wednesday, fended off a spirited challenge from Thailand for a 21-25, 25-19, 25-11, 25-13 win to remain undefeated.

The top three finishers in the 12-team round robin competition qualify for the Beijing Olympics next year.

Italy's captain Eleonora Lo Bianco said she was satisfied her team's play. "Our goal was to get as many points as we could. I'm satisfied about the result. I could rest today and the other team members played very well," she said.

Italian coach Massimo Barbolini said his players did not lose their concentration despite the one-sided match.

"It's important, after the victory over Poland yesterday, to have as high level as possible about the match and the training. Today we did what we wanted to do," said Barbolini.

US coach, Lang Ping of China, was not surprised her squad dropped a set to Thailand since they also had a four-set match with the Asian bronze medallists last year.

"It's hard to tell my players not to give up a set or points. We're not at that level yet. We're just happy to win the match. There are still four difficult games to go and we must concentrate on each match," said Lang.

Lang said some players' have old injuries, forcing her to make some substitutions.

"Our team is not very young. After five or six matches, old injuries come back. In particular, a few players have really swollen knees, so I tried to play with different players and must be careful," Lang said.

"The doctors are trying to help the players recover, but we must play every day, so that's why we try to use different players."

In other matches, world bronze medallists Serbia outgunned Peru 25-15, 25-15, 25-23.

Serbia, also the European silver medallists, have a 6-1 win-loss record, Cuba 5-2 and Peru 1-6, ahead of Thailand and Kenya, which have not posted a win.

Source: AFP

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