by Doug Beal, USA Volleyball CEO
I’m happy to again report on a USA win, but it was really a struggle over a very good and frustrating Thailand team. Ultimately the USA won 13-25, 27-25, 25-22, 21-25 and 15-13!!
The other results today saw Brazil beat Russia 3-1 and Japan overcome Dominican Republic 3-0. Tomorrow the last day has Japan playing Brazil, the USA finishing with our NORCECA friends from Dominican Republic and Russia vs Thailand. Right now the USA is 3-1, tied with Japan and trailing Brazil, who are 4-0.
With the point system that the FIVB uses to determine the results and finish the event is still very much up in the air for the top spots. If Brazil wins tomorrow with Japan (by any set score) they will win the event. The outcome for the other medal positions will be decided by that match and the USA-DOM score.
Thailand is a wonderful team that qualified for this event by winning the Asian Championships, defeating both Japan and China in the process. They are a very quick team that controls the ball, gets lots of touches from their block, dig well and make you work very hard for every point on every rally.
The U.S. has been a little slow to get going in several matches and today Thailand made us pay dearly with an easy win in set one. We were actually ahead at the 1st technical time out (8-7), but from there things quickly unraveled and we lost at 13. We made several costly attack errors and Thailand also scored five stuff blocks to pull away. This was probably the worst set of the tourney for our women.
Again, as yesterday, Coach Kiraly went to his bench and they slowly turned the tide. After starting the same team as each previous match, Karch put in Jackson for Gibbemeyer, Fawcett for Murphy and Lichtman for Hildebrand, and that group finished the match - all 12 players played and it was surely a team win.
Sometimes you can lose the overall point battles, but win the war (match); such was the case today. I keep wanting to remind everyone that this team is playing with only Jordan Larson-Burbach from the London silver medalists, and for much of the summer season there was one or even 0 returners from that team; yet they went 8-1 in the Grand Prix to make the final round, won the NORCECA Championships and are 3-1 here at the Grand Champions Cup; pretty impressive by any standard.
Karch has called this team “resilient” - hard to dispute. They are gaining wonderful experiences and mostly winning at the same time. They are developing a system and style of play, and learning what their coach wants and their strengths and weaknesses, and how to capitalize on the one and improve on the other. They have a ways to go to be the team they can be and want to be, but they know that and are determined and focused and have the pieces to get there.
Tomorrow will likely be another battle with a strong Dominican Republic team. Ultimately this team prevailed in a long match where we didn’t play our best, were down in the fifth set, had four hitting errors in the fifth set alone and found a way to win - with everyone contributing.
Oh, by the way……as I have been writing this our hotel has shaken twice with relatively small tremors; happy to be only on the 17th floor of a 45-story building. Doubt I’ll be sleeping too well with what’s left of the nite.