USA women win first major championship in 50 years
- USA def. China 3-1 (27-25, 25-20, 16-25, 26-24)
|Team USA members celebrate after the final point of their FIVB World Championship in Milan|
-photo courtesy FIVB
If you haven’t yet heard, the USA National Team won the 2014 FIVB World Championship yesterday in Milan. The Americans beat China in the Finals, 3-1.
To win the title, USA had to win three tough final matches of the three-week tournament. They beat two-time defending champion Russia in the third round, then upset #1 Brazil in the semis, before dispatching perennial powerhouse China in the championship match.
There are three major international women’s tournaments each quadrennial: the World Championships, the World Cup and the Olympics. Hard to believe, but—until yesterday—USA had never won a single one of those titles, spanning several decades. Plenty of silver medals, but this was the very first gold. Amazing.
Only five players on yesterday’s roster were at the 2012 London Olympics: Courtney Thompson, Jordan Larson-Burbach, Foulke Akinradewo, Christa Harmotto Dietzen, and Nicole Davis. The first four played significant roles in the gold medal run, as did veterans Alicia Glass, Nicole Fawcett and Rachael Adams. The big news for the USA is the emergence of a core of newcomers, led by Kim Hill, Kelly Murphy, Kayla Banwarth, Kelsey Robinson and Tori Dixon. Unlike the Brazilians, who will host the next Olympic Games in 2016, USA Coach Karch Kiraly seems to have a great mix of experience and new blood.
Finally, Seattle’s own Courtney Thompson—the first woman athlete ever inducted into the Washington Husky Athletic Hall of Fame—more than proved her worth at setter. Used mostly as part of a mid-set double substitution in USA’s 5-1 offense, Thompson and opposite hitter Fawcett showed time and again the wisdom of that strategy. Throughout the tournament—and particularly in the final three matches—Thompson often led dramatic scoring runs … 6-2, 7-1 and even 8-1. Thompson was in charge for the final eight points of yesterday’s crucial second set, effectively dashing China’s comeback hopes. The point differential during her time on the court during these championships was significant, often as much as half the overall differential in the entire match. Her talent and leadership should make her a leading candidate for a spot on the roster in Rio.
- The World Championship Finals began at the exact same moment as the Washington vs. Oregon Pac-12 match. We were on press row in Eugene, and watched both four-set matches simultaneously. Each had its gripping moments, and it was both stressful and exciting to divert attention back and forth between the two. After Washington beat Oregon to remain undefeated, several Huskies players immediately wanted to know the score of the USA/China match.
- Eight players, coaches and officials on the World Championship team are featured in our recent documentary, Court & Spark.