Gold Medal match: USA (7-0) vs. Brazil (5-2)
Saturday, August 11 | 10:30am (Pacific)
Saturday, August 11 | 10:30am (Pacific)
Only July 30, USA met Brazil in the second match of Olympic pool play. Coming in, USA had looked erratic in a hard-fought 3-1 victory against South Korea. Brazil had struggled to a 3-2 win against Turkey.
USA’s 3-1 win against Brazil that night was hardly easy (25-18, 25-17, 22-25, 25-21). But a careful review of that contest may shed light on what to expect during Saturday’s gold medal rematch:
USA STEPPED UP ITS PASSING
|Logan Tom passes as Nicole Davis looks on during|
USA's July 30 win against Brazil
After a shaky pool play performance against South Korea, libero Nicole Davis greatly improved her serve-receive game against Brazil. It helped that the Brazilians had a terrible serving night; when they weren’t making service errors (15 for the match), they were delivering easy serves. By comparison, USA served tough, particularly Jordan Larson and Logan Tom.
LOGAN TOM WAS ON FIRE
This is Tom’s fourth Olympics; she knows the Brazilians as well as any opponent in the world. After a terrible performance in the opening match against South Korea, Tom dominated against Brazil. She delivered 12 kills and just one error on 27 attempts, often taking advantage of the weak blocking combination of Brazilian setter Fernanda and middle Fabiana. Tom used her entire repertoire: line, cross and tip.
LINDSEY BERG MIXED IT UP
|Destinee Hooker & Foluke Akinradewo|
block against Brazil's Sheilla
Throughout these Olympics, setter Lindsey Berg consistently delivers one-third of her sets to Destinee Hooker, who has rewarded Berg with an offensive output for the ages. Against Brazil, Berg also sent 27 sets to her middles, Foluke Akinradewo and Christa Harmotto, who responded with a combined 13 kills. Brazilian middle Thaisa came up big against the Americans [11 kills, 1 error on 22 attempts (.455)]. But Brazil’s other middle, Fabiana, was a nonfactor [5 kills, 2 errors on 11 attempts.] Scoring points while Fabiana is in the front row will be key.
USA COVERED THE BLOCKS
In their first encounter, Brazil had 7 termination blocks to USA’s 4. But the Americans have steadily improved their ability to recognize and dig block attempts. Blocking is important, but it rarely makes the final difference in a match of this magnitude.
HUGH McCUTCHEON KEPT THE TEAM CALM
The USA coach has long been praised for his quiet, businesslike demeanor in the huddle. At one point during the third set of the Brazil match, he coolly admonished his team to ignore Brazil’s sometimes-wild celebrations during the run of the match. USA’s ability to avoid looking at the scoreboard, forget the previous play and stay in the moment has been their biggest strength.
My prediction? USA in 4.
South Korea (3-1)
Dominican Republic (3-0)
South Korea (3-0)
South Korea (0-3)
- Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim posted an embarrassing little column yesterday. Among other things, he wrote that Logan Tom is a first-time Olympian (these are her fourth Olympics), and that setter Lindsey Berg is a “center.” Those errors have since been corrected on the Sports Illustrated site, but apparently SI does not tell its readers that it is reading a corrected version. Hooray for making the changes, but better to also point out that changes had to be made. Even better to have someone on staff who knows volleyball.
- NBC aired portions of the USA/South Korea match in prime time. At one point, color commentator Kevin Barnett ticked off a few things that might concern USA. At the end, he said, (and I’m paraphrasing here), You’ll notice I’m not including Lindsey Berg’s availability on my list. Either Berg or Courtney Thompson can do the job.
- The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Dwyre, among others, points out that indoor volleyball was given short shrift these Olympics. While sand volleyball is staged at the majestic Horse Guards Parade, indoor volleyball is at Earls Court, a half-century old arena a long way from the Olympic Village. “Time has been unkind to Earls Court,” Dwyre writes. “Across the street is an unkempt graveyard. On the corner is a large pub named the Tournament. Its windows are boarded.” He comments about NBC’s saturation coverage of sand volleyball (pointing out that Horse Guards Parade includes, for some reason, cheerleading crews, and noting “the tight pants, the hair pinned up and the dark glasses.”). He also asks: “Is there any growing recognition among viewers that the Olympics seem to be edging away from sports that are only sports, and toward sports that are both sport and spectacle?”