by Doug Beal, USA Volleyball Chief Executive Officer
"It’s always more fun to report after a win, so I’m happy to discuss the USA’s 3-2 win over a strong Russia team!!! Not only did we win, but all 12 players got in to the match and each one made a significant contribution to the ultimate victory. This was about as close as it gets. The scores were 16-25, 25-22, 25-19, 24-26 and 15-13; each team scored 105 points and all the categories were almost as close. USA had 1 more attack point, 63-62, service errors were 12-10, attack errors were 10-11. The Russians out blocked us 16-10, but we out aced them 9-2. As I said, a VERY close match. Ultimately the match was tied 13 all in the 5th and the end came with two straight attack errors by the Russians.
The USA had trouble getting going in most of the sets, falling behind early in every set except the 5th. We were down 2-8 (1st set), 3-8 (2nd set), 7-8 (third set) and 3-8 (4th set) at the first technical time outs of each set, till finally leading 8-7 in the deciding set!! Some great serving runs by Kim Hill in the 2nd and Cass Lichtman in the 3rd helped turn those sets into wins. In the 4th we got 3 aces from Nicole Fawcett to almost end the match 3-1 for the USA.
The starters were the same as against Brazil and Japan; Glass setting, Murphy opposite, Larson-Burbach and Hildebrand outside and Gibbemeyer and Paolini in the middle, and Banwarth as libero. Set 2 saw Cursty Jackson replace Paolini and Fawcett in for Murphy. The tide slowly changed as the USA won sets 2 and 3 with nice late runs triggered by great serving runs. It was great to see Coach Kiraly use the full roster and get terrific performances out of the whole roster for this win. The USA clearly won the serve/receive game and gave the Russia team fits from the end line. Building depth and confidence in this young group is great so early in the quad, and this was a very satisfying win over the European champs.
The other results today saw Brazil top Dominican Republic 3-1 and Japan delight the home crowd with a 3-0 sweep of Thailand (the USA opponent for tomorrow). Yesterday the team had a five-hour bus trip from Nagoya to Tokyo. The weather was beautiful, the countryside was stunning, we were able to get as clear a view of Mt. Fuji as I have ever seen in many visits here, and in Tokyo we are actually fairly close from the hotel to the playing arena (not always the case in Japan).
Playing volleyball in this country is generally a very enjoyable experience; well organized, smoothly run, great facilities, appreciative and respectful crowds. This years’ Grand Champions Cup is proving to be no exception to that rule. The USA plays the early match the last two days, against Thailand and then Dominican Republic. The USA men are in Tokyo preparing for their event and will be attending the game tomorrow versus Thailand to support our women. Hopefully the team’s good performance continues. More tomorrow.