Saturday, June 16, 2012

USA Volleyball remains undefeated; ex-Huskies contribute

UW Alums Tama Miyashiro and Courtney Thompson make most of limited World Grand Prix action in Sao Paolo

It was the second set of a second-round World Grand Prix match against Germany; the US National women’s team trailed 19-20. Top-ranked USA had barely won the sloppy first set, 25-23, and seemed unable to maintain a sustained advantage. The Brazilian crowd in Sao Paolo did most of its cheering for the underdog Europeans.
Courtney Thompson listens as Hugh McCutcheon talks to Lindsey Berg
Defensive specialist Tama Miyashiro stepped to the service line. The former University of Washington All-American’s wicked jump float kept the Germans out of system, allowing the US to tie the score. Five more quality Miyashiro serves yielded four more points, until Germany held off set point. Throughout her service run, Miyashiro swept up a number of stellar digs, keeping crucial rallies alive.
USA eventually prevailed 3 sets to 0, running its 2012 World Grand Prix record to 5-0. But it was the team’s second straight subpar performance, with a much-anticipated match against Brazil up next.

"It was the team's second straight subpar performance ..."

During both Friday’s victory against Italy and Saturday’s Germany win, American setter Lindsey Berg was rarely in sync with her hitters. Time and again, the timing was off, forcing the US to send across tips and off-speed shots, or to tie up in jousts from balls set too close to the net. In three sets against Germany, Berg dished just nine combined assists to her two outside hitters, Nebraska’s Jordan Larson (6 kills) and Stanford’s Logan Tom (3 kills). The offense ran almost exclusively through the right side, by setting opposite Destinee Hooker of Texas (10 kills), or slides to middle blockers Christa Harmotto of Penn State (10 kills) and Stanford’s Akinradewo Foluke (9).
Defensively, the Germans followed the lead of the Italians, trying to hit line over Berg when she was in the front row, tipping in front of Hooker whenever possible. Libero Nicole Davis (USC) was erratic, sending many serve receives to the net, and rarely showing the hustle displayed by Miyashiro on broken plays.
USA Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon never played former Washington setter Courtney Thompson against Italy, and only inserted her late in the final moments of the German match. But even that brief appearance showed Thompson’s considerable talent. Like Miyashiro, she delivered a difficult jump float serve. On offense, she sets up further from the net than Berg does, giving her more options and delivering precision sets to her middles and outsides. And on a broken play, Thompson sprinted for the ball ;it was hustle we didn’t see from Berg or from Davis the past two matches.
Germany's  Heike  Beier (12) sends a kill past Lindsey Berg (4) and Foluke Akinradewo (16)
The rap on Thompson is her height. But it was interesting to see her step aside with Berg during each timeout: both players are the same size. The world’s best coaches want their setters to set, play defense and serve—blocking is secondary. But Berg has no obvious physical advantage over Thompson, and after Berg’s two shaky performances, Thompson deserves a shot at running the team against Brazil.
The Brazil match begins Sunday, June 17, at 9:20am (Pacific). You can watch it online at [Hint: you can ignore the “Load plugin” warning; you can get access without it.]

  • In a rather poor marketing move, Sao Paolo fans were given shirts that exactly matched the seats: bright yellow shirts to those sitting in the yellow sections and bright blue in the blue. When the camera was wide, it had the disconcerting effect of making the arena look empty. 


  1. i loved both their performances and contribution to the team. Tama starting with a sick dig on the left back and switching to setter after a berg-haneef sub. she wasnt able to set coz she dug all those balls with her serving run too. i loved how Courtney hasnt changed her ethics giving Harmotto a high quick set and wasnt happy and gave her another set for a big USA kill!


  2. You mustn't have played...

    Those shirts/empty arena 'affect' make it nearly impossible to judge depth in perception (while receiving the 1st serve).

    Passing is key. The libero had difficulties with the background the ball was 'up' against.
    Could it have been a purpossed strategy for Germany/Brazil???


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