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Aug 19 Cuba, Brazil in Olympic women's volleyball semis

Aug. 19, 2008, 1:48 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Brazil, the top-ranked women's volleyball team in the world, easily defeated Japan in three sets (25-12, 25-20, 25-16) on Tuesday to advance to the Olympic semifinals.

The Brazilians, who went 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).

Cuba, which also has yet to lose a match in Beijing, will play the winner of the day's late match between the United States and Italy in the semifinals on Thursday.

Cuba, which uses two setters and four attackers, is ranked No. 3 in the world.

Tied at 24 in the first set, captain Yumilka Ruiz's spike gave Cuba the advantage. The Bulgarian team 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.

Despite mounting a comeback in the third to go ahead 23-21, Cuba went ahead in the end on Rosir Calderon's spike and won it on Nancy Carillo's block.

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

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 that she knew the team hadn't played its best.

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

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