June 29, 2008 * Wroclaw, Poland * FIVB World Grand Prix
After a late evening, we were able to sleep in with breakfast at 9 a.m. I opted to visit one of the local cathedrals for one of their seven Sunday Masses. It was interesting to experience a Mass in Polish.
On my run today, I passed two other cathedrals as I changed my route. Both churches were packed with the overflow parishioners outside the church listening to the Mass by speakers outside the ornate doors.
The USA delegation ate lunch and prepared for our embarkation to the Hall for the first match of the day against Poland.
It is an almost full hall as the warm ups draw to an end. My favorite referee is the R2 today. Susana Maria Rodriguez Jativa is from Spain. We met last year at the Grand Prix. With my referee hat on, I would have chosen her as the R1, but what do I know? She is, however, a stellar second referee – personable, efficient and not the show - just what we train officials to strive for when going from good to great.
The crowd is electric as their starters are introduced. An early USA time out at 3-5, brings the crowd to its feet yelling repeatedly “Polska” with claps in between.
The first technical time out has the Americans down two. And the red and white placards from every seat are waving up and down as “Que Sera” plays.
Trailing by one, Kim Glass serves her famous ball from the north 40 – it hits the floor for 11-11. Kim serves another and this time the pass is errant and the second teammate is unable to better the ball as the USA goes ahead 12-11. The Poles call a time out and the middle attack hits alone to earn the serve, only to have her teammate then launch a serve out of bounds. Heather Bown rejects the same Polish middle attack with authority and a point.
Heather squeaks one by on the right side and we take the lead 15-14. Great dig by Glass with Nicole Davis on the second and Tayyiba Haneef-Park returns the ball with an off-speed shot off the arms of the retriever. At the second technical time out, USA leads 16-14.
Poland attacks on serve receive, but Glass unintentionally digs to Logan Tom who takes it over with an easy shot that falls to area six, then Ty misses her serve. Logan at the line after tooling a right side blocker earns point 19. Lindsey Berg runs down the tip to Bown who choses to back set to Ty in the back row who wipes off the left side blocker and it is 20-15.
Logan returns to serve after a Polish time out and aces the center back. Davis is unable to defend the extreme cross court shot which gives the Poles 16 to our 22.
Kim Glass runs after a shank toward the second referee and makes a great save as Heather makes an equally great maneuver to return the ball. We get another chance and Ty simply two hands the ball over the blocker, without a jump and it lands on the floor.
Huge block by Danielle Scott-Arruda and Ty and the Americans win the first set 25-17.
The cheerleaders take the floor between sets for a rhythmic gymnastics routine with ribbons, followed by the Polish mascot, the red and white heavily feathered eagle who entertains the crowd and cheers on the Polish substitutes who are warming up in the free zone.
Same starters in the second set; the USA takes a decisive lead at 4-1, but the Poles close in at 6-4. After three American hitting errors, Poland ties it up 8 a piece, but Bown cracks a slide between the blockers to allow us the lead once again. We add another point with a wide Polish attack, but Tom misses her serve. Poland answers with a serve out the back door and we are up 11-9. One more error and the Polish coach take his setter/captain out of the set.
Danielle gets the nod on the right and crushes one that looks like a warm up hit! Missed serve by Bown, but Berg takes it on two and blocks it straight down then follows with an ace serve. Shared points and the second technical time out has the score at 16-11 and “Don’t Worry Be Happy” is the selection by the music man.
A point earned by Poland has Davis receive a tough ball to Berg who gives it quick to Danielle for the kill. Back and forth points and Ty is at the line at 20-13. Logan serves an ace down the line for 22-14 and the Poles take a time out. Another tough serve, but the Poles manage to pass, set and kill for a point.
“Yellow Submarine” plays just after Kim Glass shanks one into the first deck. But no worries, the Polish server answers with a fault. We serve, rally with the Poles until Kim Glass gets it on the left and crushes it down the line giving us set point. One more Polish error and we have the first two sets with the second score of 25-16.
Between sets 2 and 3 we have a USA college-type serving contest that has the participants trying to ace the mascot. The crowd is amused as most of the servers cannot seem to get the ball to the net, let alone over the net! Then the photographers find people in the stands to profile. The big screen has a heart surrounding the capturers. If they are on the screen, they must kiss the person next to them. It is a real crowd pleaser.
The Polish team returns to the floor to Whitney Houston’s, “I Will Always Love You.” A bit of a warm up and we are on our way to set 3. No adjustments to the USA line up.
The Poles do-or-die mentality forces the U.S. to take the first time out at 2-5, but Ty gets the call and kills it cross court, then she serves into the net. Danielle and Heather’s right side attacks are our bread and butter; they are both unstoppable. Logan serves two tough balls. She forces the opposing middle to net as she leaps from the pipe. It’s 6-all.
A point for Poland and Barboza is given paddle #3; Cynthia comes in for Tayyiba in left back after we tied it at 7. Danielle gives us a boost with a swing block and it’s 8-7 at the first TTO. Out of the time out, we transition and Danielle miss hits out of the middle for a point. Logan is unable to dig an uncontested left side attack, but the Poles help us with a missed serve, only to have Berg serve it wide – 10-9.
Barboza stays in the front row and Glass off speeds to area one for the point followed by an ace serve, 12-9. A couple swings by each team and Tom gets stuffed. Great pass by Glass and Berg spins in the air for Danielle with perfect timing. A loss of point and Bown‘s ball finds the floor. Logan passes and gets the set for a kill to put the score at 15-12, but misses her service.
We earn the 16th point at the second TTO to Poland’s 13. Heather Bown dribbles one over the net which causes havoc for all three contacts finally resulting in a point. Another tough float by Bown, but the Poles seem to find a way to win point 14 to our 18. We get the ball back on an overpass attempt that goes long. Barboza blocks twice and saves a ball near the line judge, but it is not enough to win the point. Even with a triple block, we seem to be out of rhythm a tad – 19-16. Another gift from Poland’s service line, but Kim Glass counters with a deep out of bounds serve as well.
A Polish hitting error that Danielle would have rejected, finds the USA up 21-17 at the first Polish time out. “If You are Happy and You Know It” plays and the Poles get happy on Danielle’s service error. Barboza errors on the right side which makes it 21-19. The Poles hurt their effort with yet another service error. The second time out causes Barboza to miss her serve and it is now 23-20.
Logan takes it into her own hands and squares up cross court, but hits across her body down the line without a hint of a player. Then she finds the court on a back row attack and the USA wins the set 25-20 and the match.
The MVP for this match is - - - - - - Heather Bown! Sweet, and well-deserved!
At the press conference, Lindsey thanks the city, the Polish fans and their team for hosting. She said that she and her team are very excited about their progress and will continue to improve.
Poland’s coach said, “Today we played against one of the best teams in the world. Not satisfied with the result." USA’s coach, Jenny Lang Ping said that we knew that Poland did not have their best team here, but they did have their crowd. Hopefully each tournament we will improve.
On to Chinese Taipei with a flight at 6:20 a.m. and three legs – Can’t wait!! See ya on board after a long nap!!!!
Team Leader, U.S. Women's National Team at World Grand Prix