Heath Hoke: Team USA Wins Opening Match
We start the day with breakfast at 7 a.m. and practice at 8:30 a.m. The players went hard at practice, probably harder than they expected. Not much but hanging out and laundry, so that was the plan.
After lunch of chicken and rice, our assistant Neil, statistician – Brandon Crisp, and I caught a ride with Trinidad & Tobago early to the venue. Neil and Brandon scouted the match of Trinidad & Tobago vs. U.S. Virgin Islands.
I happily met the other five players arriving from JO’s today. They had a 6:05 a.m. flight from Dallas to be her in time for the match. A police escort from the airport allowed them to arrive in plenty of time.
USA vs. Dominican Republic. Starters for USA are Bai on the right, Hutson and Wopat in middle, Orozco and Scullion as outsides, Thomas as setter, and Bonilla our libero for the tournament. USA starts with a side out and follows with a Stuff block 2-0. With a hitting error by the Dominican, USA leads 5-0 and Dominican takes a time out. Side out back and forth USA leads 8-2 at the first technical. USA protects the net well but two service errors and a serve receive error closes the gap to 10-7. Dominican seems to be settling down but still making more errors than USA. Wopat for a serve ace and Orozco kills an overpass for 16-9 technical timeout. Dominican tallies a block, ace, block for a three-point run to force a USA Timeout. Dominican answer the timeout with another stuff block. Hutson kills a quick for 20-16 and follows with a service error. Dominican closes to one point with three service aces. Dominican ties the match 20-20 with service receive trouble form the US. Stone substitutes Reeves for Bai. Dominican and USA go back and forth, Reeves kills a blue for 23-21. A kill from Orozco takes set one to 24-21. Dominican sides out 22-24. Pass by Scullion set by Thomas kill by Orozco to finish set 1 25-22.
Set II starters: Bai, Hutson, Orozco, Scullion, Thomas, Wopat. Dominican comes out serving strong but struggles to finish. The battle is high jumping middles Wopat for USA and Arias of Dominican. USA catches Dominican at 4-4. a service error by both team for 5-5. Service errors are not helping USA but Dom keeps offering reprise. A setting error on Dom gives USA an 8-7 at the technical. Bai with a service ace. Followed by a solo stuff block by scullion USA 10-7. Arias pounds a quick to take Dominican to 10-12. Dixon enters the game for Hutson at 13-10. Bai with an assist to Orozco keep momentum for USA 15-11. Orozco with a kill form the right for a technical timeout 2 USA leads 16-12. The match is looking more as expected big hitter vs. big hitter. USA is holding it 4 point lead 20-16. Wittman subs in for Bai. USA earns two more forcing a Dominican timeout 22-16. Orozco off the head of Dominican middle for 23-17 and again through the block for 24-17. Dig by scullion and a kill by Orozco to finish the match 25-17.
Set III: starters Bai, Wopat, Scullion, Reeves, Dixon, and Thomas. Scullion starts with a heavy workload and handles it, USA leads 3-1 as she goes back to serve. Scullion’s service error gave Dominican their second point. Scullion picks up a block coverage and Orozco kill. A service error by both teams score 7-3. Dixon with a stuff block for her second contact takes USA to 8-3 for the first technical. Three violations by USA and Dominican is within two 7-9. Bai gets tooled and returns the favor for 11-8. Thomas get a stuff block for 12-8. Arias answer sternly in the middle but Dominican with a service error. Centerline violation call on Thomas, Dominican 12-14. Dixon answers with a slide kill, USA 15-12. The longest rally yet with a key dig by Bonilla and finished with an off-speed shot by Dixon for the 16-13 technical. Wopat with two stuff blocks puts USA up five, 19-14, and draws a time out from Dominican. Wopat with another block give USA a 21-14 advantage. Wopat crushes a quick middle, Bonilla with a dig and Thomas with a dump takes USA to 23-15. Hitting error by Dominican and USA has match point. Bai to serve, Bonilla dig and Wopat finishes in the middle 25-15.
Our first match is now under our belt and USA is victorious and happy to have all 12 players together.