U.S. Women's National Team Journal with Joan Powell

June 22, 2008, 3:09 a.m. (ET)

June 20, 2008 * Kobe, Japan * FIVB World Grand Prix

Day 4

Much better!!!! USA clicked to beat Kazakhstan in three – 25-16, 25-17, 25-18. There were lots of smiles from the gals in red, white and blue.

The starters were: Heather Bown, Lindsey Berg, Kim Glass, Jennifer Joines, Tayyiba Haneef-Park, Kim Willoughby and Nicole Davis at libero.

After an hour and half practice this morning, with an emphasis on passing, the practice and game plans came to fruition. USA’s passing improved as well as the team’s blocking. The Kazakhstan team, ranked 16, could never get on a roll as the U.S. team was forever in control.

The second set was a duplicate of the first with a slight change in the dial – rotation 4. More of the same until 23-17 when Coach Ping double subbed Danielle Scott- Arruda to the right side for Lindsey Berg in the front row and Angie McGinnis for Tayyiba to run the offense. The U.S. team was able to earn the next two points for the set.

In rotation 2 and the same starters, set 3 looked similar to the first two as the U.S. team continued its dominance. The only change was the introduction of USA’s middle Foluke Akinradewo to the World Grand Prix. She made quite an impression as her first attack was a back slide which went to the floor. The very next play she was dished a quick by Berg which resulted in a kill that looked like a warm-up hit – straight down, uncontested. I know the heat she can bring because in the warm-up gym before the match, I was shagging about five feet inside the attack zone, attempting to stop a ball from going under the net, just as Foluke hit a right side attack that parted my hair! Had I been hit, my migraine would have turned into a full fledged concussion!!!

The U.S. team won the third set in the same fashion as the previous sets. The team seemed to gel. The concern about our passing seemed to dissipate which resulted in a greater attack and the penetration on the block was much improved.

After the match, the team went into the weight room for about 40 minutes. Inside the arena, there is a public fitness center including an enclosed table tennis area with about four tables. Near the end of their conditioning, Kim Willoughby took on a local, middle- aged table tennis player. The locals enjoyed the banter. Kim was no Forrest Gump, but she certainly held her own.

Japan beat Turkey tonight in a long five-set match. We will play Japan tomorrow – hope our team keeps improving. It will be a tough match, especially in front of the home crowd. Sure hope their team and crowd are fatigued from tonight’s grueling match!

Joan Powell
Team Leader, U.S. Women's National Team at World Grand Prix