Olympic Volleyball: U.S. Women Trim China To Take Pool Lead And Stay Undefeated
Bill Kauffman, USA Volleyball
Destinee Hooker (San Antonio, Texas) scored 22 points to lead the No. 1 U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball Team to a 26-24, 25-16, 31-29 victory over No. 3 China on Wednesday at Earls court in a battle of unbeaten Olympic Games Pool B squads in London.
While Hooker provided a team-high in scoring for the third straight match, the U.S. used two key sparks off the bench coming in the form of its oldest player – five-time Olympian Danielle Scott-Arruda (Baton Rouge, La.) at age 39, and its youngest player – first-time Olympian Megan Hodge (Durham, N.C.) at age 23. The duo combined for 25 points off the bench.
"I am so proud of my team," said Lindsey Berg (Honolulu), the captain of the U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball Team. "It took all 12 of us tonight to beat a very good China team and it will take all 12 of us throughout the tournament."
The U.S., now 3-0 with nine points in Pool B, continues group competition on Aug. 3 versus Serbia before concluding preliminary play on Aug. 5 against Turkey. Both matches start at 8 p.m. local time (noon PT). With victory, Team USA assures itself a spot in the quarterfinal round set to be played Aug. 7. China falls to 2-1 with six points.
The U.S., which had its 15-11 lead disappear in the opening set, battled back from a 23-20 deficit to capture the set 26-24. Team USA rallied from an 11-7 deficit using a 12-2 scoring run sparked by Scott-Arruda and Hodge leading to a 25-16 victory. The pair combined for 11 points in the set, mostly in the key scoring run. Similar to the second set, the U.S. allowed a 15-12 advantage in the third set disappear and fell behind 23-21 before rallying for the 31-29 victory with five late kills Hodge. Team USA saved one set point in the third set and finished off the contest on its sixth match point.
"She is very composed in the big moments," U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball Coach Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand) said. "She always feels comfortable when the match or the set is on the line. We were very happy with her performance and the positive impact she made when we brought her on.
Hooker collected her 22 points via 17 kills on 40 attacks, three blocks and two aces. Hodge, seeing her first significant action of the Olympics, provided 18 kills on 27 attacks off the bench. Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Fla.) charted 10 points with eight kills on 11 errorless attacks and two blocks. Logan Tom (Salt Lake City, Utah) added five kills, two blocks and two aces for nine points.
"We've played China a lot this quad and it always is a battle," Hodge said. "It is the Olympics and everyone battles for each point."
Scott-Arruda, just the third player ever to compete in five Olympic Games in women's volleyball and first player from the United States, sparked the Americans in the second set and finished with seven points with five kills on six attacks and two blocks.
"It was such a blessing to come off the bench and play well," Scott-Arruda said. "It feels good because my teammates support me, we all train hard together. I just love the composure of our team in difficult situations. We have depth in every position. Everyone played an important part."
Jordan Larson (Hooper, Neb.) and Christa Harmotto (Hopewell Township, Pa.) rounded out the scoring with two points each.
Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.) provided 18 digs in the victory and added 10 excellent receptions on 14 attempts. Hodge added 15 excellent receptions on 18 attempts for a well-rounded match. Berg turned in 45 running sets on 91 attempts leading to a 47.1 kill percent and .336 hitting efficiency (56-16-119).
"We've been down (in sets) many times this season and for many teams when this happens you start to worry and don't concentrate, but we just tried and take each moment at a time and stay calm," Akinradewo said.
McCutcheon started Tom and Larson at outside hitter, Akinradewo and Harmotto at middle blocker, Hooker at opposite and Berg at setter. Davis is the designated libero for the tournament. Hodge came into the match late in the first set and started the final two sets in place of Larson. Scott-Arruda came into the match early in the second set for Harmotto and started the third set. Tamari Miyashiro (Kaneohe, Hawaii) was a serving sub in the first and third sets, while the double-switch of Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.) and Tayyiba Haneef-Park (Laguna Hills, Calif.) came on in the third set.
Team USA held a slim 10-8 margin in blocks and over-powered China in spikes at 56-43. The U.S. limited China to a .224 hitting efficiency (43-17-116) for the match. Both teams served four aces in the match.
"You can't compare this team to the other four Olympic teams I've played for because systems and tactics change, but this is a great team," Scott-Arruda said about playing in her fifth Olympics. "As I have currently won only one Olympic medal I am hoping we will go through for gold."
Team USA has now won the last four meetings with China and eight the last nine matches during the current Olympic quadrennial. Earlier this year, the Americans defeated the Chinese in the FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round finale to capture their third straight World Grand Prix title. During the 2011 FIVB World Cup, the U.S. dropped China in a five-set thriller. The Americans would go on to finish with the silver medal at the World Cup and qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games. Earlier in 2011, Team USA won a three-set match over China as Hooker totaled 19 points in the opening weekend of the FIVB World Grand Prix.
During Olympic Games competition, the U.S. and China have split six matches.
The Americans won the most recent contest with a thrilling five-set victory during pool play at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Overall, China holds an 85-36 record over Team USA in women's volleyball since 1983.
China's Chunlei Zeng tallied 10 points in the loss, while Jinling Chu added nine points.
In the other Pool B match played today, Turkey defeated Serbia 25-20, 25-12, 25-21 and Brazil (3 points, 1-1) faces Korea (3 points, 1-1) in the day's final match at 10 p.m. local time (2 p.m. PT). In Pool A, Japan (6 points, 2-1) defeated Dominican Republic (0 points, 0-3) 25-20, 25-19, 25-23, Russia topped Algeria 25-7, 25-14, 25-15 and Italy beat Great Britain 27-25, 25-12, 25-12.
The preliminary round consists of a six-team round robin played every other day. The top four teams in each of the two pools advance to the Aug. 7 quarterfinals with the pool winner facing the crossover fourth-place team. The second- and third-place teams drawn into quarterfinal lots against the opposite pool. The semifinal round takes place on Aug. 9, followed by the medal round on Aug. 11.
China scored the first two points of the first set, but the U.S. bounced back to tie the score at 3-all with consecutive Hooker kills. Team USA took its first lead at 5-4 with an Akinradewo kill and Harmotto block. China reversed the lead at 7-6 with back-to-back points. However, the U.S. reached the first technical timeout with the lead at 8-7 after a China error and Tom block. Tom served an ace after a Hooker kill to extend the American lead to 12-10. China called a timeout down 13-10 following a long attack. Out of the break, Akinradewo took an overpass for a kill to push the lead to 14-10 on four straight points on Tom's service. China cut the gap to 15-14 with three consecutive points. China leveled the score at 17-all on an attack error leading to a USA timeout, then took the lead at 18-17 on a second straight USA error. China extended its lead to 20-18 with a block. However, Team USA answered with a Tom kill and Akinradewo block to even the score at 20-all going into a China timeout. China responded with a kill and consecutive aces to take a three-point edge at 23-20. Team USA responded with kills from Hooker and Hodge, then a block by Akinradewo to tie the score at 23-all. The U.S. scored a fourth straight point on Tom's serve with a power spike from Hooker to grab set point at 24-23. After China saved one set point, the U.S. ended the set at 26-24 on a China attack error. Hooker finished the opening set with eight points, while Akinradewo tallied six points. Team USA out-blocked China 4-2 in the first set.
Like the opening set, China scored the first two points of the second set including an ace. China increased its margin to 5-2 before Hooker scored a kill and ace to narrow the gap back to one at 5-4. China regained a three-point cushion with an American attack error at 7-4. China extended its lead to 11-7 following an American attack error prompting McCutcheon to call timeout. After a China service error, Hodge hammered an overpass to cut the gap to 11-9 leading into a China timeout. Out of the break Hooker pounded a kill and put up a block to square the set at 11-all. Team USA took the lead at 12-11 on a China error, the team's fifth straight point on Tom's serve. The U.S. extended its lead to 16-13 with a Hooker block followed by two Hodge kills going into the second technical timeout. Out of the break, Hodge scored a third and fourth consecutive kills as part of a 5-0 run that put the score at 18-13. Hooker followed with an ace at 19-13 for a sixth straight point going into a China timeout. After China stopped the run, Scott-Arruda put up two kills around a block to increase the American lead to 22-14. China sliced two points off the gap at 22-16 but it wasn't enough as Scott-Arruda and Tom smacked kills and Akinradewo put up a block on a soft China attack to win the set 25-16. Hodge scored seven points, while Scott-Arruda and Hooker each totaled four points.
China reached the first technical timeout of the third set leading 8-7 after three lead changes and neither team holding more than a single-point advantage. Out of the break, China advanced its lead to 9-7. However, Team USA answered with an Akinradewo kill and China error to knot the score at 9-all. The Americans gained the lead back at 11-10 with a Hooker kill and China attack into the net, then Tom served an ace at 12-10 prompting a China timeout. Out of the break, Hooker hit off the block for a fourth straight point on Tom's serve at 13-10. China closed the gap to 15-14 on back-to-back kills. China scored two points out of the second technical timeout to knot the score at 16-all. China took the lead back at 19-18 on an ace and pushed the margin to 20-18 on a block. Team USA answered with a Hodge kill after a China service error to square the set at 20-all. China regained a two-point cushion at 23-21 on a wide American attack leading to a timeout. Hodge slammed consecutive kills to put the U.S. into a tie at 23-all. After saving one set point, the U.S. grabbed the advantage at 25-24 with a Hodge kill and China error. After trading points, Team USA won the set on its sixth opportunity with a Hodge kill following a Hooker spike. Hodge and Hooker ended the set with 10 points each.
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