U.S. Women Advance to Medal Round with Five-Set Win Over Italy

Aug. 19, 2008, 3:49 p.m. (ET)

Bill Kauffman
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: 719-228-6800
E-Mail: bill.kauffman@usav.org


BEIJING (Aug. 19, 2008) – Lindsey Berg (Honolulu) served the U.S. Olympic Women’s Indoor Volleyball Team to leads of 8-0 and 5-0 in the fourth and fifth sets, respectively, to help the fourth-ranked Americans rally for a 20-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-18, 15-6 victory over second-ranked Italy on Tuesday evening in the Olympic Games quarterfinal match at Beijing’s Capital Gymnasium.

The U.S. advances to the semifinals on Thursday and will play at 12:30 p.m. against third-ranked Cuba, which defeated Serbia 26-24, 25-19, 26-24 earlier in the day. Team USA, looking to reach the Olympic medal stand for the first time since 1992 (bronze in 1992, silver in 1984), is ranked fourth in the world.

“For the last four years, we have not won over Italy,” U.S. Olympic Women’s Indoor Volleyball Coach Lang Ping (Beijing) said. “It is a great team, very consistent with great defensive passing. It is hard to find a weakness. We have been thinking very hard the last two days how to play Italy. We did a great job technically preparing for Italy. This competition is very tight. You either win and keep going, or you lose and your out.”

China won a battle of pool third-place finishers against Russia with a 25-22, 27-25, 25-19 victory in the quarterfinals prior the American-Italian tussle. The host country will face world’s top-ranked Brazil, which swept Japan 25-12, 25-20, 25-16 in the other quarterfinal match.

Italy won the first set 25-20 thanks to a 7-2 run after the score was tied 15-all. Team USA bounced back in the second set as it lost an early 4-0 lead, but rallied from a 17-15 deficit to win 25-21. Italy jumped to an 11-3 lead and pushed the advance to 18-9 before holding off an American 7-2 surge to win 25-19.

“In the fourth set when we were behind, we tried to make a few position changes,” Lang Ping said. “I think it was very successful, and I would like to congratulate my players.”

The U.S. maintained the momentum from late in the third set by scoring the first eight points of the fourth set on Berg’s serve en route to easy 25-18 victory. Berg took the service line to start the tiebreaker and helped the U.S. to a 5-0 lead which resulted in a 15-6 victory.

“I can't even describe how we feel, but we are happy,” U.S. Olympic Women’s Indoor Volleyball Team captain Robyn Ah Mow-Santos (Honolulu) said. “We had a couple meetings earlier today, and we knew this was going to be a difficult match. We have been the underdogs against Italy the last four or five times. The 12 of us said this was going to be a team effort, and it was a big team effort. I am going to have to give props to Lindsey Berg for coming in and firing up the team big time.”

Logan Tom (Salt Lake City, Utah) led the U.S. attack with 14 kills, three blocks and two aces for 19 points. Danielle Scott-Arruda (Baton Rouge, La.), playing in her fourth Olympics and in search for her first medal, racked up 15 kills on 20 attacks to go with two blocks for 17 points. Tayyiba Haneef-Park (Laguna Hills, Calif.) totaled 17 points on 12 kills, four blocks and an ace. Heather Bown (Yorba Linda, Calif.) chalked up nine kills, three blocks and an ace.

Kim Willoughby (Napoleonville, La.) came off the bench in the first four sets to spark the Americans with nine kills on 14 errorless attacks. Kim Glass (Lancaster, Pa.) contributed eight points in the victory. Berg, who started the last two sets after subbing in the first three, tallied three aces and a block. Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.) led the defense with 10 digs to go with 11 excellent service receptions on 23 attempts. Ah Mow-Santos handed out 23 assists, while Berg chipped in 21 assists coming off the bench.

The U.S. started captain Ah Mow-Santos at setter, Tom and Glass at outside hitter, Scott-Arruda and Bown at middle blocker and Haneef-Park at opposite.

“My congratulations to the USA team,” Italian Head Coach Massimo Barbolini said. “They deserved to win. Team USA demonstrated a high level, and it is a strong team. Particularly when they are in difficulty, they have ways to respond to the situation. Also, our errors helped them.”

Team USA held commanding advantages of 15-6 in blocks and 7-2 in aces to help offset 24 points provided to Italy on errors. The Americans turned in a 34.5 attack efficiency (kills minus errors divided by attacks) while limiting Italy to a 29.1 efficiency. Italy did hold a 42-31 dig margin.

“I have been through so many big competitions and the finals of major competitions,” Lang Ping said in regards to whether she is proud of the accomplishment of leading the American squad into the medal round. “I actually really cheer and congratulate my players. I am very proud of them.”

Team USA has now played three consecutive five-matches, all with the same result. The U.S. has fallen behind 2-1 in sets, only to come back to win the fourth and fifth sets.

The U.S. and Italy finished pool play 4-1 and second in their respective groups, but were forced to contend against one another immediately in the quarterfinals with the drawing of lots on Sunday determining the opponents for the pool’s second- and third-place teams.

Francesca Piccinini and Taismary Aguero had matching 17 points for Italy, while Nadia Centoni turned in 14 points in the loss.

Prior to today, the U.S. had never played Italy during the Olympic Games and was winless in five matches versus the Italians at other tournaments during the current Olympic quadrennial. With the Team USA victory, the Americans break the drought and improve to 26-23 in the all-time series since 1983. Italy won both meetings this year during the FIVB World Grand Prix.

The route through the Olympic Games has been an emotional roller coaster for the American squad. On its first day of competition on Aug. 9, Team USA was informed of the tragic death of Todd Bachman, father-in-law of the U.S. Men’s Olympic Indoor Volleyball Team and father of 2004 U.S. Olympic volleyball player Elisabeth “Wiz” Bachman. Less than five hours of learning of the death, the team won an emotion-filled four-set match over Japan. However, the team suffered a letdown the following match on Aug. 11 against Cuba before bouncing back to defeat Venezuela on Aug. 13. Team USA played its best match of the tournament on Aug. 15 in defeating host China. It concluded the five-match round-robin pool with a five-set come-from-behind victory over Poland.

In preparing for the rematch with Cuba, Lang Ping and the U.S. coaching staff and players will not enjoy the spoils of victory for too long.

“I think for the last two matches, it will be tougher,” Lang Ping said. “I want to take a 10-minute break and relax a little bit and probably early tomorrow, we will have to quickly think about how to prepare for the next game. I think it is important for the players to recover from their physical conditioning.”

Team USA is ranked fourth in the world by the FIVB taking into accounts results of the 2008 FIVB World Grand Prix, 2007 FIVB World Cup, 2007 Continental Championship, 2006 World Championships and 2004 Olympic Games.

The U.S. Women qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games by finishing third at the 2007 FIVB World Cup, the first qualifying event for the Olympic Games. Team USA has earned a silver medal at the 1984 Olympic Games and a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympic Games.

For additional information on the U.S. Women’s National Team, go to click here.

The U.S. reached the first technical timeout of the opening set leading 8-6, only to have Italy rally for three unanswered points and a 9-8 lead. After trading the advantage twice, Italy gained a two-point cushion at 15-13. Bown and Tom answered with kills to tie it at 15-all. However, Italy secured seven of the next nine points to establish a 22-17 advantage en route to the 25-20 victory.

Team USA bolted a 4-0 advantage in the second set with two kills from Haneef-Park, only to have Italy close to within one at 7-6. Italy gained the lead at 11-10 and stretched it to two at 13-11. Tom tallied consecutive kills to tie it at 13-all, only to have Italy score three of the next four points. Trailing 16-14, Lang Ping substituted Willoughby and Berg, and it paid dividends with three kills from Willoughby as part of a 4-1 American run to take an 18-17 lead. With the score tied at 19-all, Haneef-Park came back into the set and provided four kills on a 5-2 run to establish a 23-21 advantage. Tom ended the set with a block and kill at 25-21. Haneef-Park tallied eight points in the set, while Tom totaled seven.

Italy powered its way to an 11-3 lead in the third set, which stretched to 18-9 with the U.S. scoring only once on its serve during that period. However, Berg followed a Bown kill and block with an ace as part of a 3-0 run that kick-started the offense which closed the gap to 20-16 with a Willoughby kill after two Italy miscues. Although Italy won 25-19, the late momentum of the third set with the substitution put in by Lang Ping was pivotal the rest of the match.

Scott-Arruda started the fourth set with two kills and a block, followed by a Glass block and Berg ace for a 5-0 advantage. Berg continued the serve through the first technical timeout leading 8-0 with two additional aces after an Italian error. Scott-Arruda and Tom turned in consecutive kills to stretch the lead to 11-3 and traded points with the Italians until they managed consecutive points at 20-14. Trailing 22-14 after a Glass block, Italy scored three straight points to make it interesting at 22-17. But the U.S. did not allow Italy to score on its serve the rest of the way with a 25-18 victory.

Haneef-Park started the fifth set with a kill and block to go with kills from Glass and Scott-Arruda around an Italian error to yield a 5-0 U.S. lead to start the fifth set. After an Italian point ending Berg’s serve, Scott-Arruda picked up back-to-back kills to establish a 7-1 lead. After a U.S. service error, Tom and Haneef-Park answered with consecutive blocks leading to a 9-4 advantage. Team USA put together a 4-0 run for a commanding 13-4 margin capped by a Haneef-Park ace after kills from Tom and Bown and block from Berg. The U.S. sided out the rest of the set with Bown scoring the last two American points for a 15-6 victory.

Other Quotes

Tayyiba Haneef-Park

On Lindsey Berg
"She was amazing. She brought us back. We had no fire at the end of the third set. She came in and changed the mindset of the team."

Regarding Cuba, the U.S. semifinal opponent
"The first match we played against them they had an amazing service game. They will probably try that again, and we need to be able to block their strong attackers."

Kim Willoughby

On beating Italy
"Oh my God. I never imagined being here and playing that match. Everybody told us we would never beat them. It's a huge win for us. I am just ecstatic right now. I'm shaking so much and the match is over."

On USA chances in the semifinal against Cuba
"People make fun of us because we're so emotional. But we have that energy, we have that fight. We've won our last couple of matches in five sets, coming from behind."

Danielle Scott-Arruda

On the match
"It's my fourth Olympic Games. It's a fine experience, it's exciting for all of us. We play for ourselves, for our fans and just enjoy it. We really support each other."

Regarding Cuba
"It will be tough. We have met them several times. They are dynamic. We need to be patient. You will see USA play volleyball."

On her fourth Olympic Games
"To make one Olympic Games is a dream. To make four is beyond a dream."

U.S. Women’s Indoor Volleyball Olympic Roster
# - Name (Pos, Ht, Hometown, Colloege)
1 - Ogonna Nnamani (OH, 6-1, Bloomington, Ill., Stanford)
2 - Danielle Scott-Arruda (MB, 6-2, Baton Rouge, La., Long Beach State)
3 - Tayyiba Haneef-Park (OPP, 6-7, Laguna Hills, Calif., Long Beach State)
4 - Lindsey Berg (S, 5-8, Honolulu, Hawaii, Minnesota)
5 - Stacy Sykora (L, 5-10, Burleson, Texas, Texas A&M)
6 - Nicole Davis (L, 5-4, Stockton, Calif., Southern California)
7 - Heather Bown (MB, 6-3, Yorba Linda, Calif., Hawaii)
9 - Jennifer Joines (MB, 6-4, Milpitas, Calif., Pacific)
10 - Kimberly Glass (OH, 6-2, Lancaster, Pa., Arizona)
11 - Robyn Ah Mow-Santos (S, 5-7, Honolulu, Hawaii, Hawaii)
12 - Kim Willoughby (OH, 5-10, Napoleonville, La., Hawaii)
15 - Logan Tom (OH, 6-1, Salt Lake City, Utah, Stanford)

Head Coach: “Jenny” Lang Ping
Assistant Coach: Sue Woodstra
Therapist/Trainer: Li Yong
Technical Consultant: Tom Hogan
Technical Coordinator: Diane French
Team Leader: Joan Powell

Past Olympic Games Women’s Champions
1964: Japan (USA 5th)
1968: Soviet USA (USA 8th)
1972: Soviet Union (USA did not qualify)
1976: Japan (USA did not qualify)
1980: Soviet Union (USA did not play due to boycott)
1984: China (USA Silver)
1988: Soviet Union (USA 7th)
1992: Cuba (USA 3rd)
1996: Cuba (USA 7th)
2000: Cuba (USA 4th)
2004: China (USA 5th)

Women's 2008 Olympic Games Indoor Volleyball Schedule

Tuesday, Aug. 19 – Quarterfinal Round at Capital Indoor Stadium
1A Cuba def. 4B Serbia, 26-24, 25-19, 26-24
1B Brazil def. 4A Japan, 25-12, 25-20, 25-16
3A China def. 3B Russia, 25-22, 27-25, 25-19
2A USA def. 2B Italy, 20-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-18, 15-6

Thursday, Aug. 21 – Semifinals at Capital Indoor Stadium
1A Cuba vs. 2A USA, 12:30 p.m.
1B Brazil vs. 3A China, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 23 - at Capital Indoor Stadium
Women's bronze-medal match, 12:30 p.m.
Women's gold-medal match, 8 p.m.
Women's Award ceremony, 9:50 p.m.

Pool A:
Cuba 5-0
USA 4-1
China 2-2
Japan 2-2
Poland 1-4
Venezuela 0-5

Pool B:
Brazil 4-0
Italy 4-0
Russia 2-2
Serbia 2-2
Kazakhstan 1-4
Algeria 0-5

Saturday, Aug. 9 - at Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium
Pool B: Italy def. Russia, 25-20, 17-25, 25-16, 25-23
Pool B: Serbia def. Kazakhstan, 25-21, 25-17, 23-25, 25-21

Saturday, Aug. 9 - at Capital Indoor Stadium
Pool B: Brazil def. Algeria, 25-11, 25-11, 25-10
Pool A: Cuba def. Poland, 21-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-17
Pool A: China def. Venezuela, 25-13, 25-13, 25-18
Pool A: USA def. Japan, 25-20, 20-25, 25-19, 25-21

Monday, Aug. 11 - at Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium
Pool B: Serbia def. Algeria, 25-14, 25-13, 25-13
Pool B: Italy def. Kazakhstan, 25-19, 25-15, 25-21

Monday, Aug. 11 - at Capital Indoor Stadium
Pool A: Cuba def. USA, 25-15, 26-24, 25-17
Pool B: Brazil def. Russia, 25-14, 25-14, 25-16
Pool A: China def. Poland, 22-25, 25-15, 25-20, 25-22
Pool A: Japan def. Venezuela, 25-12, 25-17, 25-12

Wednesday, Aug. 13 - at Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium
Pool B: Italy def. Algeria, 25-7, 25-20, 25-12
Pool A: USA def. Venezuela, 25-17, 20-25, 25-14, 25-18

Wednesday, Aug. 13 - at Capital Indoor Stadium
Pool B: Russia def. Kazakhstan, 25-19, 25-18, 25-11
Pool B: Brazil def. Serbia, 25-15, 25-13, 25-23
Pool A: Cuba def. China, 18-25, 14-25, 25-23, 32-30, 15-13
Pool A: Japan def. Poland 25-21, 25-20, 18-25, 23-25, 15-11

Friday, Aug. 15 - at Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium
Pool B: Russia def. Algeria 25-11, 25-19, 25-10
Pool B: Brazil def. Kazakhstan, 25-13, 25-6, 27-25

Friday, Aug. 15 - at Capital Indoor Stadium
Pool A: Poland def. Venezuela 25-12, 25-12, 25-20
Pool B: Italy def. Serbia, 25-23, 25-20, 25-19
Pool A: USA def. China, 23-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-20, 15-11
Pool A: Cuba def. Japan 25-17, 25-22, 25-22

Sunday, Aug. 17 - at Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium
Pool B: Kazakhstan def. Algeria, 25-18, 25-20, 17-25, 25-16.
Pool A: Cuba def. Venezuela, 25-20, 25-20, 25-19

Sunday, Aug. 17 - at Capital Indoor Stadium
Pool A: USA def. Poland, 18-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-19, 15-13
Pool B: Brazil def. Italy, 25-16, 25-22, 25-17
Pool A: China def. Japan, 26-24, 25-16, 25-14
Pool B: Russia def. Serbia, 25-21, 25-16, 25-20