Saturday, August 6, 2016

Olympic Games | USA wins Olympic opener

Americans overcome unforced errors to defeat Puerto Rico

Women’s National Team Schedule
  • Aug 06: USA def. Puerto Rico 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 25-17)
  • Aug 08, 11:00AM vs. Netherlands
  • Aug 10, 11:00AM vs. Serbia
  • Aug 12, 11:00AM vs. Italy
  • Aug 14, 1:05PM vs. China
  • Aug 16 Quarterfinals
  • Aug 18 Semifinals
  • Aug 20 Medal Finals

USA Middle Blocker Rachael Adams (5) blocks against Puerto Rico's Karina Ocasio
-photo by FIVB

Throughout the summer, video replays have been USA’s friend.

During the month-long World Grand Prix, USA coach Karch Kiraly had uncanny luck when asking for a video review of referee calls. In match after match, USA won the lion’s share of both its own challenges, and those initiated by opposing coaches.

But during today’s 3-0 sweep of Puerto Rico in USA’s opening round of the Rio Olympics, Kiraly’s luck turned. One ball called out was shown on replay to have caught a fingernail of the line, overturning what had initially been an American point. An attack Kiraly thought might have caught the block was ruled otherwise. Puerto Rico coach Juan Carlos Núñez correctly saw that another ball ruled in was out.

Even so, USA won the first two sets, overcoming several service errors and generally off-target passing. When it counted, much of the offense went through the right side, either off the arm of Opposite Kelly Murphy, or on a high leap and quick snap from Middle Blocker Foluke Akinradewo. For the match, USA outblocked Puerto Rico 10-4.

USA coach Karch Kiraly protests a video replay call as USA's Carli Lloyd looks on
-photo by FIVB

In the third set, Puerto Rico hung tough. With USA leading 13-11, Kiraly asked for a video challenge after a sloppy joust just in front of the referee stand. After staring up at the video screen, Kiraly pleaded with down referee Joo-Hee Kang of South Korea to rule that Puerto Rico’s attack had hit the net outside the antenna. When up ref Taoufik Boudaya of Tunisia disagreed, Kiraly told his team, “That’s a bad call.”

Like most elite teams, USA practices repeatedly how it should react to calls go against them. As it did in the first set, the Americans went on a tear, pulling ahead 20-15 en route to a 25-17 third set victory. Along the way, Núñez asked for a video review of an out-of-bounds attack, hoping the ball had clipped the USA block.

It hadn’t. And USA finally won a challenge.


In the first big indoor volleyball upset of these Olympics, the Netherlands knocked off China, 3-2 (25-23, 21-25, 18-25, 25-22, 15-13).

Dutch players celebrate their 3-2 upset win over China
-photo by FIVB

The match was a showcase of China’s powerful outside hitter Zhu Ting (21 kills) and Holland’s impressive outside Lonneke Sloetjes (24 kills).

The key to the match was when China coach Jenny Lang Ping decided to make Zhu her first server in the fifth set. That kept Zhu off the front line for most of the set, allowing Sloetjes to dominate at the net.

Netherlands is USA’s next opponent, this Monday at 11AM (Pacific).

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