July 11, 2008 * Yokohama, Japan * FIVB World Grand Prix
Well, we have everyone except the Japanese police looking for my lost jump drive with last night’s journal entry. But the games will go on ...
And so today’s contest is against Cuba. After a later breakfast, meeting, no training (cheers!) and some lunch, it was on the bus for the five-minute ride to the competition hall. It takes longer for the bus to park!
I had observed last night the difference between the Japanese and Americans' pre-match warm up in the auxiliary gym. I was interested to see the Cubans’ style. We are unlike the Japanese. They grabbed the entire shared court early; we were still preparing in the locker room. Two coaches served to one player who never saw the court until the third set last night, more training time for this individual, I guess. The libero joined her shortly after her private lesson. Then the setter entered the court and four staff members began to prepare her. From then until it was time for the march out no one else entered the court. Two players were being hit at by the head coach at close range, the rest were doing some sort of physical conditioning including the use of the ladder.
It is well-orchestrated, synchronized with lots of staff. Two coaches began to serve cross court from the pole to two additional players with another staff member as a target.
The Cubans on the other hand, stretch first, then add some cardio. The team leans toward individual needs. The USA team has order to their warm up as they engage in a routine of cardio first, directed by Danielle Scott-Arruda’s, followed by individual stretching exercises. The Cubans were randomly in groups without much order, but never touched a ball.
I am now sitting at the end of the court with my computer and am getting bombarded with the Cubans hitting line. Balls are going over the surrounds and attacking everyone in the medical and media area well behind the end line. This has order, jump high and hit the ball straight down!
It is very quiet in the arena, almost like our first day of training in the hall. There are a few fans in the crowd, including the ever-faithful mother and grandmother of Lindsey Berg who were standing, ready to catch the souvenir balls thrown by the starters during introductions.
Rotation 1 started us off with Berg, Ogonna, Foluke, Ty, Tom and Bown with Sykora as the libby. We had another slow start and looked a bit disjointed as the Cuban team connected on all of their attempts. Then after the first TTO, the USA team came alive behind Berg’s great diving dig and the front row of Ogonna, Foluke and Ty. Ogonna in the back row tries to tie it up at 12 with a save to the advertisements and gets it over the net, but the Cubans counter and win the point.
I heard Kim Glass say to Ty, in her low deep voice, as she was in the air; “They can’t stop you,” as Ty attacked down the right side line for the second successful swing to tie it up at 14. After the second TTO, the Cubans served the ball into the net and we are tied again at 16. An Ogonna kill and Tom served an ace – we are up by two for the first time in the set. Although we lost the ball, Cuba gave it back to us with a serve out of bounds.
Ogonna begged the line judge with her imitation of a LJ out call, but it was in on her sideline; the Cubans served her just out as she was bent on one knee and turned to the LJ once again and gave him the nod, as both signaled out, which allowed her to serve at 21-19. Tom and “Lukie” connected on a strong block, followed by an errant Cuban attack. Cuba took its second time out at 23-19. We gave the ball back and Davis replaced Ogonna in the back court.
Tom to Berg and Lukie buries it, but the veteran Danielle Scott-Arruda was subbed in to serve at set point to 21. Even though we lost the point, Tom found her off speed deep shot for a winner – 25-22.
Same rotation to start set 2, but Berg served in the net, Ogonna and then Ty put us on the board with two. The Cubans are so physical. A see saw match again and some key errors by the Cubans, not to mention an out of system bump set near the middle of the net that was killed by Tom, followed by a back row attack from” Ty Ty” and we are up 8-6 at the first TTO.
A Bown service error, but Ty kills the pipe and it was 9-7. Two Cuban right side line shots, one good, one not and the score was 10-8. Tied at 10, Cuba hit long. The explosive #1, Ruiz tied it at 11. Bown hits a successful wave and Ty served an ace, followed by a Cuban mishandle whistled by the Japanese referee – time out Cuba 14-11. We get one more and Bown acknowledged her net fault. Lots of close net play and the Tom/Bown block for point 16, sounds the last TTO to Cuban’s 12 points.
Out of the TO, Berg chased down a tip and Bown back set to Ogonna, Cuba blocked it out the back door. A broken play resulted in an antenna ball and USA was up 18-12. Cuba gets 13, but Bown slides to earn point 19, followed by Ogonna’s directional swipe off the block. The frustrated Cuban coach substitutes the outside hitter and they answer with a point, 20-14. Cuba’s BRA was not ready, but “Lukie” was on the right side for a kill – it was time out Cuba at 21-14.
The second referee from Iran came all the way down to the substitute area to give one of the Cubans the “get your warm up pants off” motion – she obliged. (Some of the protocol stuff killed me) “Folukie” blocked and causes havoc for the Cubans for the 22 point.
At 22-16, Nicole Davis played the back row for Ogonna. Tom attacked and the digger got the ball too close to the referee stand even with the valiant airborne effort from the setter. Ace by Lukie and her teammates engulfed her in the huddle. (Everyone likes Folukie; she is one of the most genuinely pleasant team members.) The Cubans waste the final shot with a powerful down the line, like in warm up, but it was wide and long – set 2, 25-17.
Same starters and the third set started off with a Cuban ace and an additional point, but “Lukie” blasts it off the opponent’s hands out our back line and into the stands – some great power. Cuba went up 3-5 with two American hitting errors, but the Cubans helped us with a net serve. #1, Ruiz, again split the block, but served it wide – 5-6. Cuba earned one and then gave one back with another missed serve. “OG” slides to the other sideline to pick up the tip, got out of the way as Berg back set to Ty on the right side in the back row. “Lukie” stuffed the middle and the first TTO has us up by one.
Off Foluke’s hands for a Cuban point, but Berg found Lukie again. Shared points, but “Lukie” got it in front of our setter for point 10. Point 11 for Cuba was through the block of Foluke and Ty. Shanked pass by Ogonna and Davis gets the nod to grab a paddle. TO called by USA at 10-13 and Davis subbed for Ogonna. Three chances for Davis, all successful and the setter dumped a two-handed ball to the middle of our floor. Great rally and “Lukie” gets on top of the ball on a quick – 12-13.
Cuba hit wide for our 14th point. Great serve receive ball from Davis and Ty tips deep for the point and the serve. Ty is unable to help herself and falls on a tipped ball; TTO at 14-16. Out of the interruption, assistant coach, Sue Woodstra came down to the warm up and talked to the players. Ogonna back in the line up for Davis just after Bown puts it away – 15-16. A point each, thanks to a Cuban net serve.
Three unanswered points and Berg found OG for the point. Cuba split the block again from the left and Lang Ping took a time out at 17-20. The serve tricked over the net for the unavoidable point 22. A fan-pleasing rally ensued, but not so pleasing for us. Kim Glass was subbed in for Tayyiba. Cuba added two more points, then Logan Tom hits the pipe and OG served at 18-24. A quick attack ends the set promptly 18-25.
Set #4 began with the same rotation 1. Unable to score first, Cuba hits their first two attempts out of bounds. Berg missed her serve, but Cuba served and we overpassed, but landed in the middle of the Cuban campfire! Cuba got the ball back, but Tom hit off the block to make 5-3. Cuban captain, Ruiz's hit passed unaccompanied Berg - another straight down warm up hit – YIKES!
We got one point to Cuba’s next three as Bown connects with Berg on a slide to the pin, and off the right side digger. Cuba earned the next two points at the TTO and we are down by one. Ogonna smacks one down the line and Ty stuff blocks to take the lead by one. Even though Cuba won the tie point, the serve fell into the net.
Cuba recovers, tied it up at 10. At 10-11, Danielle Scott-Arruda entered the front court for Foluke, which must have rattled the server who jump served it into the net. Another jumper missed and it was tied at 12. Ruiz hits wide on a controversial attack (it was out!), followed by an American end line shot and Cuba is forced into a time out at 14-12. We dug Ruiz out of the time out, but their middle gets the kill. A deep serve on the end line falls on the “out” call by the Americans and the Cuban server answers with another ace, this time on the side line. An additional kill and USA took a time out at 14-16.
Great time out as the Cuban made a jump serving error. Berg is forced to dump on a low line dig in transition which was picked up by a Cuban defender, but their shoot set was too much for their outside hitter. We error twice and Cuba is up 16-18. They get Bown’s fingertips for point 19. Kim Glass came in for Tayyiba. Poor pass and Stacy got called for a double, but Bown hit off one leg to get the serve and Danny is in the front row to get a BRB call as she blocks their setter - 18-20.
Dished to Danny on the slide, it is blocked, barely bounds for point 19; Cuba gets one and Berg goes with Danielle again. The next ball is too much for our libero and then Tom is aced by a jump top spinner. Tom recovers with a tremendous hit from the left for point 21 to Cuba’s set point. Berg could not get out of the way of the out of bounds Cuban hit – set 4 goes to Cuba, 21-25.
Okay, we don’t want to be here, after being up 2-0, but let’s get ‘er done. Lindsey Berg stays down on the service and we score first in transition. Same line up with Danielle Scott-Arruda in the final set. With the rally ensuing, Danny begs for the under call and again as we loose the point, but to no avail. Davis came in for Ogonna; Tom got a block to area 5. USA called a time out after being in the net – 2-4.
Ty on a crossing pattern goes deep for our 3rd point. Right side tips into Tom’s block and she recovered it to Berg as Ty tries an off speed – into the net. Tom returned with a strong hit and a point 4-5 and Barboza subs out Tayyiba. Ruiz went straight down the line for a point. A Cuban jump serve caused an overpass by Tom and the middle capitalized – 4-7. With the ball back, Logan Tom serves long for the switch at 5-8.
Ogonna went off the hands of the blocker for point 6, attack too hot to handle for OG in right front. A much needed reaching over call (or “penetration” in international language), we managed point 7. Ty back in for Barboza at 8-9 with a Tom off speed shot.
Dani earned point 9 with a slide and swipe off the block. Right side attack was too much for our block. Danny pushes strong through the Cuban block – 10-11. A left side attack, followed by an ace and USA called their final time out at 10-13. A broken play off OG’s pass, Berg is able to get it close to the net for Tom who kills it. Stacy makes a tremendous dig, but Tom was in the net - 11-14. A rally, but Tom is unable to find the court – 11-15; USA loses in a heartbreaking 5-set match.
I was finishing this entry and missed the fist-a-cuffs with two of the Cuban players. When asked in the press conference, the Cuban head coach merely explained that it was “our Latin blood.”
Both Lang Ping and captain Lindsey Berg complimented their opponents and know what they need to work on in the future.
Some weight training for the team after the match with three going to the available warm up court for some individual practice followed by some dinner. On to Italy tomorrow.
Team Leader, U.S. Women's National Team at World Grand Prix