Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Olympic Games | How USA can beat Serbia

The keys to USA getting to the gold medal match

Women’s National Team Schedule
  • Aug 06: USA def. Puerto Rico 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 25-17)
  • Aug 08: USA def. Netherlands 3-2 (18-25, 25-18, 21-25, 25-20, 15-8)
  • Aug 10: USA def. Serbia 3-1 (25-17, 21-25, 25-18, 25-19)
  • Aug 12: USA def. Italy 3-1 (25-22, 25-22, 23-25, 25-20)
  • Aug 14: USA def. China 3-1 (22-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-19)
  • Aug 16: USA def. Japan 3-1 (25-16, 25-23, 25-22) [Quarterfinals]
  • Aug 18, 9AM: USA vs. Serbia [Semifinals]
  • Aug 20 [Medal Finals]

USA players huddle during their Rio Olympics August 10 pool play victory over Serbia
-photo by FIVB

It should all come down to serve-and-pass.

When USA and Serbia square off tomorrow morning at 9:00AM (Pacific) in the Rio Olympics semifinals, they’ll continue a rivalry that stretches through most of the major international championships over the past four years. In that quad, USA holds a 4-2 advantage.

In 3 of the 6 matchups, it’s taken 5 sets. Only once was there a 3-0 sweep—in 2014, as USA won its first World Championship. When elite teams like these meet, it’s usually the little things that come up big.

Serbia still has several all-out jump servers. Although those rocket serves look impressive, USA rarely has difficulty passing them. By comparison, all USA servers use a variation of the jump float. The harder the serve and the less the ball spins, the more Serbian passers get handcuffed.

Serbian opposite Tijana Boskovic (19) attacks against USA's Kim Hill
-photo by FIVB

Serbia’s outside hitter Brankica Mihajlovic has racked up 84 total Olympics kills, fifth most of any attacker in Rio. Opposite Tijana Boskovic comes in at #7 with 77. USA, however, has 5 hitters in the top 21: Foluke Akinradewo and Kim Hill both have 66 kills (tied at #11), Jordan Larson has 61 (#14), Kelly Murphy has 54 (#20) and Rachael Adams has 44 (#21). In USA’s pool play win over Serbia last week, Adams had 13 kills, Akinradewo had 12, Hill had 11, Murphy and Karsta Lowe combined for 10 and Larson had 9.

As the previous numbers demonstrate, Serbia is vulnerable to USA’s middle attack. That, in turn, is a product of USA’s passing, which gives setter Alicia Glass ample opportunity to set quicks to her high-flying middles. Serbia’s middles—Milena Rasic, Jovana Stevanovic and Stefana Veljkovic—get far fewer sets. Akinradewo leads all Rio Olympians with a .451 hitting percentage.

Both teams are tall, and Serbia outblocked USA 11-8 last Wednesday. But USA hitters tooled the block 23 times, to only 12 times for the Serbians. And USA was terrific at covering Serbia’s block attempts, repeatedly making front-court digs to keep rallies alive.

Serbia coach Zoran Terzic rarely masks his feelings on the sidelines
-photo by FIVB

There may not be two more disparate coaches at these Olympics than USA’s Karch Kiraly and Serbia’s Zoran Terzic. Terzic is highly animated, continually berating his players for their mistakes. Kiraly is the picture of calm, offering nothing but words of encouragement. Wonder which style players prefer when the pressure is on?

Beware the easy first set win. Last night, Brazil seemed primed to roll after dismantling China in set one. Four years ago in London, USA was in the same position against Brazil. In both cases, the team that won big early ended up losing the match. Can’t say the Americans won’t be on notice.

Mihajlovic and Boskovic get their points, but USA’s balance prevails, largely because the Americans win the serve-and-pass battle. USA in four.

See also:

No comments:

Post a Comment

[It's okay to comment as "Anonymous," but please feel free to share your name and/or alias.]

Have your friends discovered Volleyblog Seattle? Number of unique visits: