BEIJING (AP) A loss to Cuba brought focus back to the U.S. women's volleyball team.
Although still grieving over the stabbing death of Beijing visitor Todd Bachman, who had close ties to USA Volleyball, the women beat Venezuela on Wednesday with determination not to squander their Olympic experience.
The score was 3-1, improving the U.S. team to 2-1 in preliminary pool play. A loss to Cuba in the previous match provided ample motivation.
"I think it kind of woke us up," wing spiker Logan Tom said. "We were saying, 'Get in it, we don't have very long here. We've worked for four years for this, some of us longer. Don't throw it away.'"
The U.S. team was badly shaken when Bachman was fatally stabbed in Beijing last weekend. His wife, Barbara Bachman, was seriously injured.
The couple's daughter, Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman McCutcheon, played for the women's team in Athens and is married to U.S. men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon. She is close to many of the players on the current Olympic team.
For the match against Venezuela, players wrote "Wiz" on their arms and shoulders in marker.
"The tragedy is going to be with us throughout this Olympics and even after," Tom said. "We have to find a way to use it for positives and not let it get us down."
The 25-17, 20-25, 25-14, 25-18 victory improved the U.S. team's chances of advancing out of the preliminary round. Venzuela dropped to 0-3, all but eliminating its hopes of advancing.
There are 12 women's teams competing in Beijing, divided into two pools. The top four teams will emerge from round-robin play into the quarterfinals.
The U.S. team let down in the second set, but Tom recovered from a slow start with a spike for match point in the third. Tom was even better in the fourth, and finished with 15 points.
Tayyiba Haneef-Park led the United States with 17 points. Jayce Asndrade had 15 points for Venezuela.
The teams met at the Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium, the smaller of two venues for the volleyball competition.
As with their first two games, the U.S. team had considerable support from the crowd, not only because of a sizable contingent of American fans, but also because of the Chinese on hand to see coach Jenny Lang Ping.
Lang led the Chinese women to a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and is considered a national sports heroine in China. She has even been honored with a postage stamp.
The U.S. women face China next on Friday night where Lang's presence will have even more significance for fans.
Before losing to Cuba, the United States opened play Saturday night with a victory over Japan. That was just hours after they learned of the attack on Todd Bachman, killed while visiting the 13th century Drum Tower with his wife and daughter, who was not hurt. The assailant jumped to his death from the tower, a popular tourist site.
Barbara Bachman is in serious but stable condition at a Beijing hospital.
Todd Bachman was an avid volleyball supporter, particularly of the women's team, and he often traveled with his wife to competitions.
Ron Larsen took over as interim coach of the U.S. men in McCutcheon's absence.
In other women's matches Wednesday, Russia defeated Kazakhstan 3-0 (25-19, 25-18, 25-11), Italy defeated Algeria 3-0 (25-7, 25-20, 24-12) and Brazil defeated Serbia 3-0 (25-15, 25-13, 25-23).
Cuba prevailed over rival China 3-2 (18-25, 14-25, 25-23, 32-30, 15-13) and remained undefeated while Japan defeated Poland 3-2 (25-21, 25-20, 18-25, 23-25, 15-11).