Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Olympic Games | USA qualifies for medal round with resounding win over Serbia

Middles play big thanks to great serving and passing

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, 11:00AM vs. Italy
  • Aug 14, 1:05PM vs. China
  • Aug 16 Quarterfinals
  • Aug 18 Semifinals
  • Aug 20 Medal Finals

USA's Alicia Glass (1) and Foluke Akinradewo (16) celebrate a point during USA's 3-1 win over Serbia
-photo by FIVB

My, oh, my, did USA’s middles look big. And, always, the little things made all the difference as USA qualified for the Rio Olympics medal round with a resounding 3-1 win over Serbia (25-17, 21-25, 25-18, 25-19).

USA's Rachael Adams prepares to serve
-photo by FIVB
It started with serving. Serbia launches big, powerful jump serves. USA prefers flat floaters. American passers weren’t bothered one bit by the Serbian jumpers, sending pass after pass into the waiting hands of Alicia Glass. Glass had a marvelous match, deftly mixing her sets across the line, but especially to the middles. Rachael Adams finished with 13 kills; Foluke Akinradewo added 12 more. USA’s two outside hitters, Kim Hill and Jordan Larson, had 11 and 9 kills respectively. Opposites Kelly Murphy and Karsta Lowe combined for 10 kills. That’s balance, folks.

USA’s serving was equally impressive. After committing 18 service errors in Monday’s 3-2 comeback win against the Netherlands, the Americans had just 8 errors this afternoon. Adams was far and away the best server, landing 4 aces and frustrating the Serbians with deadly floaters in every set. It was a complete reversal from her performance against the Dutch, and rewarded USA coach Karch Kiraly’s no-panic approach: Adams knew her coach and teammates were behind her, and she responded big-time.

Great serving leads to great blocking, and USA dominated the net in all but the second set, when it was outblocked 6-0. Otherwise, the American front line got several stuffs and many, many more soft touches, allowing the back line to keep the ball in play.

USA's Jordan Larson chases a ball during a rally against Serbia
-photo by FIVB

And, truly, it was USA's best defensive effort in these Olympics so far. Libero Kayla Banwarth gathered 9 digs while Larson added 7 more. As she has throughout the summer, Larson rarely fails to pursue balls even when they are well out-of-bounds. Her teammates see—and are clearly inspired by—her effort.

Serbia head coach Zoran Terzic
-photo by FIVB

Maybe the least-appreciated skill of all told the biggest story. Time and again, the Americans kept rallies alive by covering Serbian blocks. The inability to put balls away clearly wore down the Serbians as they gave up big runs late in both the third and fourth sets. Serbian head coach Zoran Terzic, a passionate guy, lights into his players after errors. After a while, they simply stopped looking to the sidelines. Frankly, they quit before the match was over.

USA players celebrate a point against Serbia
-photo by FIVB

USA now leads Pool B with a 3-0 record. They will join China, Serbia and the Netherlands in the medal round—all three have 2-1 records. Italy (0-3) and Puerto Rico (0-3) were both eliminated from medal contention today. USA’s final two preliminary matches will be Friday against Italy and Sunday against China. The medal round begins next Tuesday.

  • The dub-sub is back. For the first time in these Olympics, Kiraly used the double-substitution throughout the match, after using it sparingly against Puerto Rico and not at all against Holland. Coming in for three rotations, opposite Karsta Lowe and setter Carli Lloyd were effective, keeping three attackers on the front line for nine straight rotations.

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