USA Women's Volleyball Team Advances to 4th Straight Olympic Semifinal
Bill Kauffman, USA Volleyball
The top-ranked U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball Team advanced to the 2012 Olympic Games semifinal round for the fourth straight time with a 25-14, 25-21, 25-22 victory over NORCECA rival Dominican Republic in the knockout quarterfinal round on Tuesday at Earls Court in London.
The U.S. Women, which is 6-0 at the 2012 London Games and 29-1 overall this year, will now face Korea on Thursday at 3 p.m. local time (7 a.m. PT). Team USA, the only undefeated team in the Olympic Games women's volleyball competition, topped Korea in four sets to open the 2012 Olympic Games.
The other semifinal will pit Japan against defending Olympic Games champion Brazil. Both teams won extended five-set quarterfinal matches as the lower seed over China and Russia, respectively.
The U.S. Women are in search of its first Olympic Games gold medal after winning silver medals in 2008 in Beijing and 1984 in Los Angeles. Team USA also won the bronze in 1992 in Barcelona. Aside from the Olympics, the U.S. has not won a major season-ending tournament including the FIVB World Championship and FIVB World Cup. However, the Americans have won the FIVB World Grand Prix, the premier annual international women's volleyball tournament, the last three years and five times overall.
In their only previous Olympic Games meeting, the Americans lost to the Dominicans during the 2004 preliminary round. Dominican Republic finished 11th at the 2004 Olympic Games, its only other appearance in the Olympics. Team USA is now 4-0 against the No. 11 ranked Dominican Republic in 2012.
Team USA bolted an 11-2 lead in the opening set and used seven blocks to win 25-14. The U.S. rattled off a 6-0 run to overcome a 10-8 deficit in the second set and proceeded to a 25-21 victory. The Americans put together an 8-1 spurt in the third set to take a 13-7 advantage and held on for a 25-22 victory after a late Dominican Republic charge.
"There was a lot on the line tonight," U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball Team Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon said. "The Dominican Republic was a different team to play for us, so I had to manage the team well and they had to do their best. I am very happy with the group. We have had a good level of play throughout the whole tournament. We can now look forward confidently."
Destinee Hooker (San Antonio, Texas) ignited the U.S. offense with 19 points via 15 kills on 38 attacks and four blocks. Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Fla.) added 10 kills on 13 errorless attacks and a block. Jordan Larson (Hooper, Neb.) charted nine kills and two blocks for 11 points. Christa Harmotto (Hopewell Township, Pa.) contributed five kills on 10 swings and two blocks for seven points. Logan Tom (Salt Lake City, Utah) tallied four kills and an ace for five points. Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.), who received her first Olympic Games start, rounded out the scoring with a block and ace for two points.
Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.) recorded 16 excellent receptions on 18 errorless attempts to go with 12 digs. Tom added 14 digs to lead the back-row defense and added 11 excellent receptions. Larson provided 11 digs in the victory. Thompson ran the offense to a 43.0 kill percent and .360 hitting efficiency (43-7-100) with 34 running sets.
The U.S. used a starting lineup void of its captain and starting setter in Lindsey Berg, but she and McCutcheon are hoping for a return later in the tournament. However, both expressed confidence in Thompson's ability to run the offense.
"It's day-to-day," McCutcheon said on Berg's status. "I thought Courtney did a great job. I don't think we missed too many beats tonight."
"I am still optimistic," McCutcheon said in regards to Lindsey Berg's return to the lineup as its setter. "I am very happy for Courtney (Thompson) and her play tonight."
"Ice, rest, massage and hope for the best and if not, I'm confident Courtney can do it," Berg said how she is preparing to get ready.
As for Thompson, she played a key role in advancing the U.S. to the semifinals for the fourth straight Olympic Games.
McCutcheon started Akinradewo and Harmotto at middle blocker, Tom and Larson at outside hitter, Hooker at opposite and Thompson at setter. Davis is the U.S. designated libero for the 2012 Olympic Games. Tayyiba Haneef-Park (Laguna Hills, Calif.) and Tamari Miyashiro (Kaneohe, Hawaii) were subs in all three sets.
Team USA controlled the net with an 11-2 advantage in blocks and held its errors to just nine for the match. Meanwhile, Dominican Republic held slim margins of 44-43 advantage in kills and 50-49 in digs, but committed 19 errors in the match. For the match, Dominican Republic converted 40.0 percent of its attacks into points, but 18 attack errors produced a .236 hitting efficiency. Both teams served two aces.
"The first two sets went really well," Hooker said. "It feels good but you have to expect the unexpected. The nerves are there every match."
Prisiclla Rivera led the Dominican Republic with 15 points and Bethania de la Cruz totaled 12 points in the loss.
During pool play Team USA defeated No. 2 Brazil (3-1), No. 3 China (3-0), No. 7 Serbia (3-0), No. 8 Turkey (3-0) and No. 15 Korea (3-1).
In the day's first quarterfinal match, Pool A third-seed Japan upset Pool B second-seed China 28-26, 23-25, 25-23, 23-25, 18-16 in a marathon match in which all five sets were decided by two points. Both Yukiko Ebata and Saori Kimura scored 33 points in Japan's victory sending it into the semifinals. Japan is ranked fifth in the world, while China is ranked third.
In the second quarterfinal, Brazil rallied from a 2-1 set deficit and saved six match points to defeat Russia 24-26, 25-22, 19-25, 25-22, 21-19 in an unexpected quarterfinal round matchup. Brazil led 13-10 in the frantic tiebreaking set, but fell behind 14-13 and won the match on its only match point opportunity. Sheilla Castro scored a team-high 27 points and Thaisa Menezes added 24 points in the victory. Brazil is ranked second in the world and defending Olympic Games champion, while Russia has slipped to No. 9 in the world ranking.
In the final quarterfinal match, Korea rallied to defeat Italy 18-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-18 as Yeun-Koung Kim totaled 28 points to maintain her tournament lead in scoring (165 points).
Team USA scored a 2-0 start to the first set with a kill and block by Akinradewo. Larson slammed an overpass and put up a block around two Dominican Republic errors to extend the gap to 6-1. Out of a Dominican Republic timeout, Hooker slammed a kill and Larson put up a block for an 8-1 at the technical timeout as part of a 6-0 run on Tom's serve. Out of the break, the U.S. scored a seventh straight point with a Hooker block. An Akinradewo kill and Harmotto block pushed the margin to 11-2. Dominican Republic notched three consecutive points at 13-7. Akinradewo downed a kill after a Dominican Republic service error to yield a 15-7 advantage. The teams traded the next 10 points before Harmotto hit a slide for a kill after a Dominican Republic service error prompting a timeout at 21-12. The U.S. reached set points at 24-14 with a kill and block by Hooker, then Akinradewo finished the set with a block at 25-14 on the next rally. Hooker totaled eight points in the opening set, while Larson and Akinradewo each added five points. Team USA totaled seven blocks in the opening set.
Dominican Republic reached a 4-2 advantage early in the second set with three unanswered points. Hooker and Larson hit back-to-back kills to square the set at 5-all. Dominican Republic scored back-to-back points to grab an 8-6 lead at the first technical timeout. Hooker and Akinradewo turned in consecutive kills out of the break to level the score at 8-all. Dominican Republic answered with a kill and ace to gain a 10-8 advantage. Team USA responded with kills from Akinradewo and Hooker to tie the score at 10-all. Hooker ended a long rally with a kill to send the U.S. in front 11-10. Thompson followed with an ace for a fourth straight point causing Dominican Republic to call timeout down 12-10. Out of the break Larson hit a back-row kill and Hooker put up a block to push the gap to 14-10 on a 6-0 run on Thompson's serve. The Americans reached the second technical timeout leading 16-11 with an Akinradewo kill before a Dominican Republic error. Dominican Republic saved three set points leading the U.S. to call timeout up 24-21, then Larson proceeded to end the set with a kill at 25-21. Hooker tallied seven points in the second set, while both Larson and Akinradewo added four points. Team USA limited its errors to one for the set and only four through the first two sets.
Team USA scored three straight points with two kills from Harmotto around one from Hooker to take an 8-6 lead into the third set's first technical timeout after four early lead changes. Dominican Republic committed an error out of the break at 9-6 for a fourth straight point on Larson's serve. Back-to-back Dominican Republic errors and Tom added consecutive kills to push the gap to 13-7. Dominican Republic narrowed the deficit to 14-10 with back-to-back points. Hooker put up a block after a Dominican Republic service error to create a 17-11 margin. Dominican Republic scored six of seven points to whittle the lead to a single point at 19-18, but could not come any closer. Hooker scored a kill after a Dominican Republic servicer error to gain a 22-19 advantage. Tom pounded a kill and followed with an ace to give Team USA set and match points at 24-21. The Americans closed the set at 25-22 on a Dominican Republic error.
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