July 13, 2008 * Yokohama, Japan * FIVB World Grand Prix
The stage is set – our coach’s former country and team vs. her new country and team. As the Chinese team entered the warm-up gym much respect was paid to “Jenny” Lang Ping as each Chinese member bowed and many spoke to her as they passed.
The Chinese warm-up took even a more unique approach. They stretched first as a team, and then ran in 2s in a circle around their court with one player chanting in Chinese, “Ready?” and her teammates returning “Ready” in reply – it was militaristic-like almost marching in unison.
The setter had the court with three coaches, while others were in different pockets of the gym doing random acts. One was with a coach who hit into her blocking hands. A few players are hitting into the wall, while three were with a coach in a circle playing hacky sack with the volleyball. The warm-up was not as intense as I had thought it would be – pretty casual.
I missed the beginning of the match as I had to run back to the locker room because our random selected doping candidate was missing her FIVB card. The WGP medical doctor asked me for it just as the warm up was complete and began to write this journal. Interesting as the three chosen in Taipei for “doping” only had to produce their passport and the ID cards have never left my possession. When I turned in the cards this morning prior to warm up, I did not think of counting them. Ran to the locker room and gave it to the medical man.
I had to ask Robyn who was in the warm up area for the starting rotation - Rotation 1 with Berg, Glass, Danielle, Ty and Tom, Foluke with Sykora as the libby.
USA was ahead by one at the first TTO and Bergie made it two with a tape shot serve that fell to the Chinese floor. Bergie served an even tougher deep jumper that caused problems as the Chinese free ball went wide – China took a time out at 10-7. We exchanged points and USA was up by 4 at the second TTO.
There is a contingency of Chinese fans with eight hanging flags and two huge flags on poles waving furiously in the upper deck. Their chants were relentless.
USA double subs – Ogonna for Berg and Robyn for Ty. Ah Mow-Santos connects with Glass uncontested by the Chinese, 17-14. At 18-15, the double subs return with Berg serving. Logan dug a ball to the left side line over the net and the Chinese convert by setting their left side where she challenged Tom to the other sideline.
With a one point lead, Jenny took a time out to China’s 17. Tied at 19, Davis replaced Kim Glass. Sharp angle seemed to be the money maker as Glass found earlier and Tom sought at 21-19 – China took their last TO.
We got a huge (incorrect) call to give us 22-19. It seems the second referee was the only one in the arena that thought the Chinese tape shot hit the antennae. China went on to earn two more, but Tom found her spot again – 23-21. China got 22, but Foluke tooled their left side for set point and Glass returned to the line up. Even though we gave them a point, Foluke is dished for the set winner – 25-23.
Rotation 1 again with the same starters; China served an out of bounds ball. Then the same culprit was set in the back row, but the tape shot was determined not to have crossed. We didn’t help our cause by serving out of bounds, but Danny jousted to win point 3. Berg in transition set from one sideline to the other where Tom buried it. A block by Tom and Dani and China took the first TO at 5-1. It is so sweet to watch this team start strong and push their opponents.
Three tips in one rally, two from the Americans, set up the Chinese for a strong smack from the leftside – 3-5, but Ty killed one down the line. BR by their big #1, Yimei Wang, but China served in the net – 7-4. Wang helped us again by hitting into the net for the 8-5 TTO.
Couple unanswered points, but Glass hit through the block for point 9. Back to Rotation 1 and Berg served just wide and Wang served her second miss and is replaced at 10-8. Danny blocked a middle tip for a point and blocked again, then in transition the American kept the ball from hitting the floor as the Chinese over passed to Danny for a kill. Logan changed from her sharp cross court to area 6 and found only floor. China’s time out at 13-8.
In the counter attack, Berg dug, Stacy bump set to Ty on the right for another point. Ty down the line and the gap widens 15-9. China received serve and the setter put up a great one handed back set for the quick kill, but we got it back at the TTO and are up by 6.
Out of the TO, China found Logan Tom’s favorite shot and Wang returned. Berg jousted and beat Wang, but not for a point, but in the counter, Berg gave it to Kim G for the 18-11 lead. China got one, but gave it back on their missed serve. Wang unloads for 13. But again, China had a service error. Gave up a couple points, but on her jumper, Wang gets an “out,” I mean “in” by the line judge. TO for USA 20-16. We are able to get Wang off the line by a Ty leftside attack.
Wang buried it from the back row and Davis came in for Kim G. Berg to Ty on the run makes a great set to the right pin – 22-17. Foluke added her stuff block for point 23. China battles and we error, but Ty stoped their effort. Robyn subbed for Ty and Ogonna for Berg at set point. Tom and Foluke joined for the in sync block, 25-19.
Set 3 line up was the same as 1 & 2. KG blocked her first chance – just wide. A few shared points follow and Kim served an ace, but followed up with an error. There is a scramble on Dani’s tip in transition, but China overpasses back to her and she makes short work of it – 3-2. China tied it and Logan takes one to the chest, the dig went into the net and is recovered, but China won the point. Each earned one and Foluke got blocked for the biggest spread since we started, 4-6. TO for USA after Logan Tom mishit a muffled sounding thud. She came out of the TO and killed one mid-court. Her missed served at the TTO had the score at 5-8. Errant pass chased down by Berg and the set is to Glass for the touch on the triple block. They hit wide and we were behind by one until Wang launched a bomb. Calm Dani returned it for a point with her bread and butter slide.
At 9-12 Davis entered the court for Kim G. The Chinese are more in sync – more like the team we scrimmaged at last year’s WGP. Cannot seem to stop them as the “mo” has definitely changed to China’s side – TO for us at 9-14.
Then Emery appeared. Our athletic trainer’s voice bellowed in the background, which gave the subs and the players on the court new life. It worked as China had to take a TO at 13-15; Wang got a kill for the second TTO.
Kim G back in for Davis (after a great pancake save). Logan won one at the net and lost one at the service line. Foluke hit a great straight down quick, but China retaliated – 15-18. Wang continued to be the best server on our team! Quick hit wide – NOT –late touch called and it was China’s ball at 16-19. BR Tom is blocked; we recover with Ty’s little tippy, but Kim G’s long serve made it 17-20. Ty was still working and brought Dani to the line, but she cannot dig their right side, 18-21.
Errant serve and we were right back in it with Ogonna for Berg. Robyn is held back, as Ty served in the net; Robyn is then subbed in tried to fire the squad up as she entered the court for Ty. Subs back in and Berg dished to OG and it was 20-22. Stacy and Logan cross on the dig, it was up, but too tight for Robyn; she got called for a double, then Kim G buried the next opportunity, 21-23. We couldn’t stop the quick and China served for set point. A couple times over the net and Danny got the kill – time for the double sub and Berg attempted to serve, but China tried to freeze her with their second time out at 22-24. China got one by the Kim G and Danny duo for set three 22-25.
Set 4 finds us back into Rotation 1 with the same players. Kim Glass got aced by Wang. Logan passed to Berg who crosses mid net and back set a great ball to Danny. A high hand ball on defense and we have a pursuit!! Ty saved the ball, we got it over and a miscommunication by China gave us out first point, but Kim G missed her serve.
A 3-5 sub, Ogonna for Glass and we rallied back. Ogonna yelling “White, white, white,” got a low ball, but found its way through the block to the Chinese floor; then Logan blocked and Ty got the white for a kill – 7-5, USA. Ty’s missed serve is untimely and China gets an extra two points and is up by one at the TTO.
Serves are killing both teams as we each shared misses and then the USA team got aced and a 9-12 time out ensued. Ogonna found the libero’s reaching arm that she could not pull back in time as we enter double digits. The crowd went wild on Wang’s jumper, but we passed, set and hit their libero for a point. A few more shared points, but more for China as the second TTO found down by 3.
China matched up well with their tall, lanky #9, Zaho, on Foluke, but Lukie managed to squeak one by her. Davis replaced Ty in the back court at 14-17. Absolutely great serve receive by Stacy Sykora and Berg found Foluke, but Logan served out of bounds, 15-18. Logan made up for it with a perfect pass and Ogonna got the kill, but Wang unloaded again, 16-19. Great American defense and Dani with her opposing blocker, Wang, unbalanced and on the run, just missed the side line.
Tayyiba back in after Dani went cross court and China was under the net. Earned back, Wang served a bomb and Ty’s attack hit the antennae, 17-22. Ogonna unloaded one herself on the right, 18-22. Stacy was unable to pancake the paint brush by the Chinese middle, but we earned the ball back one more time, before China served for set point – BUT, attacked wide. A collapse dig by Ty and Berg got it out to Logan who put it away, 21-24. Substitution – Bown for Berg in the front row, right side, but the Chinese attack goes between Foluke and Bown.
Set 5 in Rotation 1, with Ogonna in for Glass. Tip on Berg, then a wide Dani attack, China is up 2-0, but Ty wins one for us. Block on the right and then on the left, we win point 2. China’s BR error and it’s 3-2. Tough serve by Ogonna, caused the Chinese libero to pass in the net; Dani made a swipe which distracted the setter and the ball fell for our 4th point. TO China, 2-4. Dani again rejected the Chinese, 2-5. Wang still in the back court, they earn a left side point. Ty missed the side line, 4-5.
A Stacy and Ogonna miscommunication and the ball fell in transition; tied up at 5, Jenny called a time out. Chinese block and Davis came in for Ogonna. Dani came around for the quick at 6-7. Wide slide and we are tied at 7. Scramble and a great Davis dig to set up the attack for Logan Tom and we are up by one at the switch.
Uncontested line shot by the Chinese and we were tied at 8. Ty came through with a domineering shot off the block that the two defenders could not chase down. The double sub of Robyn for Ty and Glass for Berg was buzzed.
Stacy got handcuffed and then Logan was aced, 9-10. Glass hit into the bottom of the net, 9-11. Robyn forced off the net by the pass and sets a dying ball to Glass who chips it inside the hands of the middle blocker and it fell into area 4.
Trouble at the score table brought both jury members to their feet. It’s not us; it has to do with the Chinese serving order. It took way longer than it needed. The Chinese coach was at the table arguing with the second referee. I wished I would have timed it – maybe 5 minutes and the players are getting antsy.
Ogonna returns for Davis. Robyn dug to Foluke who set Ogonna right side for the point, 11-11. Glass is blocked, Foluke dug and Glass got it again for the point to tie at 12.
Miss timing in the middle by China, gave us a nice ball and the ability to set up the kill by Glass. China tipped for 13 all. Glass is enfuego, this time down the line, set, match point and Ty came in for Robyn and Berg for Glass. Ty and Dani on the block – just out, 14-14.
Stacy to Berg to Ty for the slice and set, match point again. Chinese quick went through Dani and Tom, 15s. Tom to Berg, back set to Ty, down the line and we have set, match point again. Dani dug to Berg and Ty took some off with a wide open hand down the line – kill, set, match, 17-15.
It was such a great victory to end on. Lindsey Berg commented in the press conference that the team was very excited about the win and that they played with a great deal of heart today.
Jenny told the press that she had told the players three things today in their meeting: Start well (we tend to have slow starts and are forever playing catch up); everyone has to minimize their errors (35 against Italy) and thirdly win one set. She was very pleased with this highly contested match. Personally I am sure Jenny felt a great deal of pride.
We are proud of her (the only female coach in the entire WGP) and for her players as they wait patiently to see if they are in medal contention as Cuba and Italy will determine our fate.
Team Leader, U.S. Women's National Team at World Grand Prix