Monday, August 6, 2012

Olympics | How USA and Dominican Republic match up

2012 London Olympic Quarterfinals
USA (5-0) vs. Dominican Republic (2-3)
Tuesday, August 6, 2012, 11:00am (Pacific Time)

Pool Play
USA: 5-0 in Pool B [beat South Korea (3-1), Brazil (3-1), China (3-1), Serbia (3-0), Turkey (3-0)]
Dominican Republic: 2-3 in Pool A [lost to Italy (1-3), Russia (1-3), Japan (0-3); beat Great Britain (3-0), Algeria (3-0)

World Ranking (as of July 4)
USA: #1
Dominican Republic: #11
Foluke Akinradewo attacks against South Korea

USA’s setters
Starting setter Lindsey Berg left Sunday’s Turkey match with an apparent right ankle injury. After the match, head coach Hugh McCutcheon said she had not torn anything, and Berg said she hoped to play against Dominican Republic. Sources tell us Berg had an MRI on Monday—standard practice, we assume—but no word on results. Berg, who says her knees hurt “all the time,” announced a couple weeks ago that she will retire after these Olympics.
Berg has forged a strong setter/hitter connection with Destinee Hooker, USA’s most consistent and devastating weapon. Berg’s distribution to her outside hitters has remained fairly constant, but she seems less confident setting her middles. Her serving is adequate, and her defense (perhaps because of her knees) can be uninspired. But because she gets the ball to Hooker—right side, left side and back row—the team wins.
When backup setter Courtney Thompson enters matches, Hooker comes out, so Thompson usually works without USA’s best player. Thompson does a great job setting her middles, though, and tends to disguise her sets until the very last moment, often leaving opposing blockers flat-footer. Her serving, usually a plus, has been so-so during the Olympics. But her defense is outstanding, and anytime she plays an entire set, her leadership shines. Both Berg and Thompson are 5-8, so their blocking is a wash. Frankly, if Berg can’t go, the USA will be a slightly different team, but just as good a team.
Dominican Republic’s defense
Libero Brenda Castillo is one of the world’s best defenders, and leads all Olympic setters in digging and serve receiving. USA must have the confidence and patience to serve short or to the deep corners … anywhere except right at Castillo. Great teams also find ways to attack line and set quicks; both strategies usually take liberos out of the play.
Consistent hitting
Dominican Republic has three big experienced hitters (see below,) but each has struggled at times during these Olympics. The middles see very few sets, so USA’s usually overpowering block advantage can make the difference. For USA, Hooker has been great throughout; Logan Tom and Foluke Akinradewo get better each match. McCutcheon will likely keep Jordan Larson in the match as long as she is producing, but he’s been willing to insert Megan Hodge if Larson falters.

vs. Italy
(L 1-3)
vs. Russia
(L 1-3)
vs. Japan
(L 0-3)
vs. Britain
(W 3-0)
vs. Algeria
(W 3-0)
Pool A
Bethania de la Cruz de Pena (6-2 OH)
Milagros Cabral de la Cruz (5-11 OH)
Prisilla Rivera Brens
(6-1 OPP)

This looks like a 3-0 USA sweep.
I’ll also guess Italy 3-2 over South Korea and China 3-1 over Japan
In the biggest match of the quarterfinals, I think Russia will prevail over defending gold medalist Brazil. It should be 3-1, but a five-set thriller wouldn’t surprise me.

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