U.S. Women's National Team Journal with Joan Powell
June 27, 2008 * Wroclaw, Poland * FIVB World Grand Prix
We haven’t had much luck with the internet here in the hotel. Finally tonight at the Dominican Republic/Poland match our interpreter, Kate, introduced me to one of her journalist friends who allowed me to use her computer. I was able to slip my jump drive in and send Bill Kauffman my last two entries and made a date for tomorrow to get this entry submitted.
I had forgotten how great the Polish volleyball fans were until I walked into the Centennial Hall, which by the way, was constructed in the early 1900s. The building is a huge rotunda with the highest ceiling I have ever seen. Hanging above the court was an oversized jersey commemorating the untimely death of one the Poland players, #9 middle blocker, Agata Mroz. She gave birth to her daughter on April 4 and died June 4 at the age of 26 due to complications related to her leukemia. Ana, the journalist, and her friend shared many pictures with me of Agata. In the crowd was a huge Polish flag with the image of the fallen volleyball player.
The pictorial history in the entryway had pictures of renovations and also a couple of Pope John Paul’s famous visit to his homeland.
We entered the facility to witness an enormous sea of red and white – lots of painted faces and funny hats. And oh yes, the music selections were so recognizable. A time out by Poland and the crowd began singing and swaying to “Que Sera,” followed by a snippet of Pretty Woman.
The USA team settled in the team area section of the stands to watch its future opponents. The Poles and the Dominicans were split a set a piece. The coaching staff was aware of the young roster for Poland and the outstanding performance of the Dominicans at the recent Pan Am Cup where they beat the Americans. After the Dominican’s victorious third set, the USA team went into the hallways to warm up. The facility did not have a practice gym, so the concrete walkway had to do for stretching and some running.
Back in the hall, more music ensued as the crowd was into “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands,” the theme from the Blues Brothers and the Beatles, “Yellow Submarine.” I loved hearing “Hit the Road Jack” and the “Bonanza” theme song.
After protocol with both teams fully warmed up, Thailand, with the average height of 5’9” lined up across from their opponents, the average 6’1” Americans. The USA starting line up was in rotation 1: Berg, Glass, Scott-Arruda, Haneef-Park, new arrival to the Grand Prix Logan Tom, Bown and libero Davis.
“When the saints come marching in,” ended the first set with the score of 25-18. The U.S. overpowering size was obvious, although the Thai team was scrappy, had a quick offense and would prove to be a challenge to the American women.
In set 2, the U.S. team looked comfortable in its line up as they returned to the court with rotation one. At 19-12, Coach Ping requested the double sub of McGinnis for Tayyiba and Barboza for Berg in the front row. The bench was able to finish the set 25-17.
Set 3 was a different story, however. There was only one change to the line up, Foluke for Danielle Scott-Arruba; Foluke was dished the first ball, it was dug, but she was able to bury her second opportunity to start us off to a great start. But, the team struggled early in the scoring and throughout the teens. The inspired Thai team slipped away by one or two until Glass tied it at 24-24 and then contributed to set point as well. The Thailand team hit a line shot from the right, followed by the left line shot which put them up 25-26. Tayyiba blocked to tie it back up followed by an errant serve. Set point and the Thai server trickled a serve over the net for set, 26-28.
Set 4 went back to the original line up and it was all about business. The first technical time out was taken at 8-2. Leads of 16-7 and 21-10, resulted in a quick end to the match at 25-13.
The team was instructed to remain on the end line concluding the match for a MVP presentation. Lindsey Berg earned the honor. Logan Tom, Tayyiba and Heather Bown were steady point getters during the match.
Lindsey Berg told the media that the third set was not very consistent, but that the U.S. was working on teamwork at this Grand Prix in hopes of gaining more cohesion for the Olympic Games. Lindsey is a very good spokesperson for the U.S. delegation.
When “Jenny” Lang Ping was asked if the line up tonight was one that will be similar at the Games. Jenny explained that the roster had not been finalized. Pressed by the journalist, Jenny finally said it was a secret, but if he would provide Poland’s Olympic roster, she would divulge the USA roster!! The members of the press corps broke into laughter.
There were about three questions from an obvious Jennifer Joines fan, who was concerned about her absence in Poland’s leg of the Grand Prix. Jenny explained that she was in fact on the roster in Japan last week. Jenny went on to say that Logan Tom joined the team this week and that she was interested in giving some international experience to other players such as Foluke.
Back to the hotel, a little dinner and to bed for the weary!
Team Leader, U.S. Women's National Team at World Grand Prix