U.S. Women's Volleyball Team Finishes Pool Play Undefeated
Bill Kauffman, USA Volleyball
The U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball Team started slow and finished strong to defeat Turkey 27-25, 25-16, 25-19 Sunday evening to finish the Olympic Games Pool B undefeated at Earls Court in London.
Team USA, which had already sewn up the top seed in the pool regardless of the outcome with Turkey, concludes Pool B with 15 points and a 5-0 record. The U.S., ranked No. 1 in the world, will face NORCECA rival Dominican Republic in the quarterfinals on Tuesday at 7 p.m. local time (11 a.m. PT). Dominican Republic finished Pool A with a 2-3 record and in fourth place.
Turkey, ranked eighth in the world, finished Pool B with a six points and a 2-3 record. Turkey needed to win to assure a spot in the quarterfinals. After Brazil (7 points, 3-2) defeated Serbia (0 points, 0-5) in straight sets to conclude all group play, Turkey was eliminated and the defending Olympic Games champion gained the last spot into the quarterfinals.
Other quarterfinal matches will have Pool A winner Russia (15 points, 5-0) facing Pool B fourth-place Brazil (7 points, 3-2) at 3 p.m. local time (7 a.m. PT), Pool B second-place China (9 points, 3-2) challenging Pool A third-place Japan (9 points, 3-2) at 1 p.m. (5 a.m. PT) and Pool A second-place Italy (13 points, 4-1) versus Pool B third-place Korea (8 points, 2-3) at 9 p.m. local time (1 p.m. PT).
Team USA dug itself out of a 13-7 deficit in the opening set with an 11-3 scoring spurt to take a 17-16 lead, but had to save two set points before winning 27-25. The Americans used six blocks and only two errors to fuel the comeback. The U.S. ran off five straight points to take a commanding 19-12 lead in the second set and finished it 25-16 on four unanswered points. Team USA erupted for an 8-3 lead early in the third set and continued to push hard through the set to finish the match 25-19.
"To me one of the important characteristics of a great team is how they perform when there is nothing on the line," U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball Team Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand) said. "I thought our team really honored the moment of competition tonight. Like the true Olympians they are, they came and battled tonight. I am really proud of that and happy with the performance. I think we even got a little better tonight in a few areas. That is what we are always trying to do with each match -- get better."
Destinee Hooker (San Antonio, Texas) led the U.S. with a match-high 19 points via 17 kills on 38 attacks and two blocks. Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Fla.) chipped in nine kills on 12 attacks, five blocks and an ace for 15 points. Christa Harmotto (Hopewell Township, Pa.) totaled nine points with six kills on 12 attacks, two blocks and an ace. Jordan Larson (Hooper, Neb.) pocketed nine points with eight kills and a block. Logan Tom (Salt Lake City, Utah) turned in five kills and a block for six points. Lindsey Berg (Honolulu) rounded out the scoring with one kill.
Berg provided 24 running sets and Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.) added 11 running sets mainly in the third set replacing Berg. Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.) contributed 11 excellent receptions on 14 attempts to go with five digs. Larson added a team-high 11 digs and 11 excellent receptions on 16 errorless chances. Tom charted a team-high 17 excellent receptions on 26 attempts aside from nine digs.
"We played for ourselves," Berg said in regards to having already qualified as the top seed into the quarterfinals regardless of tonight's match. "We didn't want to dilly-dally because there would be no benefit in that. We needed to keep in our rhythm."
McCutcheon started Akinradewo and Harmotto at middle blocker, Tom and Larson at outside hitter, Berg at setter and Hooker at opposite. Davis is the designated U.S. libero for the Olympics. Thompson and Tamari Miyashiro (Kaneohe, Hawaii) were subs in all three sets, while Tayyiba Haneef-Park (Laguna Hills, Calif.) came off the bench in the first two sets.
Team USA held an 11-6 margin in blocks and a 46-42 advantage in kills. The Americans limited their errors to nine for the entire match and benefited from 18 Turkey errors. The U.S. converted 43.0 percent of its attacks with a .336 hitting efficiency (46-10-107). Turkey converted just 33.6 percent of its attacks with a .160 hitting efficiency (42-22-125). Turkey managed a 48-40 advantage in digs, but only a 62.7 excellent service reception percent.
"We have got better with each of the five matches," said Team USA five-time Olympian Danielle Scott-Arruda (Baton Rouge, La.). "Turkey came out strong, but we were able to regroup whenever we went behind. I've played in four overseas Olympic Games and never heard such huge support from American followers in the crowd - it's given us a great lift."
Earlier in the tournament Team USA defeated No. 15 Korea (3-1), No. 1 Brazil (3-1), No. 3 China (3-0) and No. 7 Serbia (3-0) in pool play.
"We've seen bits of them," McCutcheon said of the impending quarterfinal match with Dominican Republic. "I know their results have been a little sporadic throughout the year, but they have a lot of experience and have weapons that can hurt you. They are all legitimate teams at the Olympic Games."
Dominican Republic will offer Team USA all the challenges they could ask for in a quarterfinal match.
"They're going to be coming to get us," Berg offered on USA's NORCECA rival Dominican Republic. "They are emotional, aggressive and physical. We're going to have to serve tough and keep the ball away from their libero (Brenda Castillo)."
China (9 points, 3-2) edged Korea (8 points, 2-3) 28-26, 22-25, 25-19, 22-25, 15-10 earlier today in a key Pool B match. With the match going to five sets, it assured both teams of qualifying for the quarterfinals.
In Pool A, Russia (15 points, 5-0) topped Italy (12 points, 4-1) 26-28, 25-19, 22-25, 25-16, 15-11 in a battle of undefeated teams that decided the first- and second-place teams heading out of the group. Dominican Republic (6 points, 2-3) defeated Algeria (1 point, 0-5) 25-15, 25-16, 25-13 to assure it a spot in the quarterfinal round. After Japan (9 points, 3-2) defeated Great Britain (2 points, 1-4) 25-19, 25-14, 25-12, positions three and four were settled with Japan taking third place in Pool A and Dominican Republic fourth place.
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.
Neriman Ozsoy paced Turkey with 14 points and Neslihan Darnel added 11 points.
Turkey scored three unanswered points to take a 3-1 advantage early in the opening set. Hooker and Akinradewo answered with kills to knot the score at 3-all. Turkey scored three straight points heading into the first technical timeout leading 8-5. Turkey extended its lead to 10-5 with two points out of the break leading to a USA timeout after yielding five straight points. Turkey added a sixth consecutive point at 11-5 on a block out of the break. The U.S. stopped the run with kills from Harmotto and Hooker slicing the deficit to 11-7. Turkey won the next two points for a 13-7 margin. The Americans answered with kills by Hooker and Akinradewo around a Tom block prompting Turkey to call timeout with its lead whittled to 13-10. Out of the break Tom scored another block at 13-11 to put the run at 4-0 on Harmotto's serve. Akinradewo put up a block after a Turkey error to narrow the gap to 15-14. Team USA knotted the score at 16-all with a Hooker block after a Turkey service error. Hooker hammered a kill to put the Americans up 17-16 after a Turkey free ball. The U.S. added to the lead with a Turkey attack error at 18-16. Turkey evened the set at 20-all on an ace going into an American timeout. Turkey went back in front 22-21 on a block. Team USA resumed the lead at 23-22 with an Akinradewo block and Turkey attack error prompting a timeout by Turkey. The lead reversed to Turkey with a set point at 24-23. Team USA saved two set points and gained its first set point at 26-25 with a Hooker kill and Akinradewo ace. Harmotto put up the winning block at 27-25, her fifth point of the set. Hooker notched seven points in the opening set, while Akinradewo chipped in six points.
The U.S. reached a 4-2 advantage in the second set with a Larson kill and Turkey error leading into a timeout. Turkey leveled the set at 4-all with a block and then went in front 6-5 as part of a 4-1 scoring run. Team USA returned to the lead with a Tom kill and Harmotto block at 7-6. Hooker downed back-to-back kills and Harmotto served an ace to push the American lead to 10-7. Akinradewo and Hooker combined for consecutive kills and Turkey hit into the antenna to extend the American lead to 13-8. Turkey stopped the run with a 4-1 spurt to prompt McCutcheon to call timeout holding a slim 14-12 margin. Hooker tallied back-to-back kills to put the U.S. in front 16-12 at the second technical timeout. Back-to-back Turkey setting errors out and an attack error of the break extended the American lead to 19-12 as part of a 5-0 run on Akinradewo's serve. Turkey closed to 20-15 on consecutive points. Tom and Berg picked up back-to-back kills and Turkey committed a setting violation to reach set points at 24-16 advantage on a 3-0 serving run by Miyashiro. Hooker ended the set with a kill off the block for a 25-16 victory. Hooker tallied seven points in the second set and the Americans took advantage of seven Turkey errors.
Team USA scored five straight points on Tom's serve to take a 6-2 advantage in the third set with two blocks and two kills by Akinradewo and a kill by Hooker. The U.S. reached the first technical timeout leading 8-3 after Akinradewo and Hooker scored consecutive kills. Turkey scored two straight points to close to 8-5, but Berg went down with an apparent injury as the U.S. went in front 9-5 on a Larson kill. Larson added another kill to push the American lead to 10-5, only have Turkey cut the gap to 11-8. Consecutive Turkey errors and an Akinradewo block lifted the U.S. back into a six-point cushion at 16-10 at the second technical timeout. Turkey scored back-to-back points out of the break to close to four at 16-12. Harmotto, Larson and Hooker all scored consecutive kills to push the advantage to 21-14. After Turkey clipped two points of the deficit at 23-18, the U.S. sided out the rest of the way finishing with an Akinradewo kill at 25-19.
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