Doug Beal on Women's National Team

Oct. 10, 2014, 12:02 p.m. (ET)

So here’s the deal, USA played a gutsy match to beat Russia, 3-1 (not easy and not always pretty), but it was the second time in this tournament that Team USA has beaten the two-time defending World Champions! 

Coming back from the disappointment of the loss to Italy makes the win tonight especially satisfying. The bad part is that we need some help to move on to the Final Four.  We need Italy to beat Russia tomorrow or at least take two sets in a loss. The real kicker in this entire situation is, Italy has already been assured of a top-two finish in our third round pool and doesn't need to win at all tomorrow, not even a set.  

We are dependent on the Italian’s pride and ability to perform in front of their fans (will surely be sold out and full at 12,500+ tomorrow rooting on the “azzuri”). This is not at all the scenario that Coach Kiraly and the team would like to be in, but that’s where we are. 

The scores tonight were, 25-19, 25-23, 15-25, 25-23, close, but a nice win. The USA was even up 13-5 in the third set and playing well, when Russia went on a serving and blocking spree that was quite impressive. They scored 20 of the next 22 points (10 on stuff blocks to win the set handily). The USA regrouped in set four after being down early to win the match after a missed call on a hit by the USA that was pretty clearly off the Russia block.

The team then won on a well-executed slide to Foluke Akinradewo that she killed with some extra effort. The USA won many of the statistical categories and that made up for the 17-7 block advantage the Russians enjoyed. 

Almost every set, Coach Kiraly uses a double sub that brings in setter Courtney Thompson and opposite Nicole Fawcett for Kelly Murphy and Alisha Glass- this has proven to mostly be a terrific move.

In set one, they entered at 13-13 and stayed in until we won the set. In the second, they entered at 14-11 and came out at 18-16, and in the fourth set they entered at 11-12 and came out when the score was 20-16, pretty impressive performances by them and the strategy. Courtney serves well and runs a different tempo offense while Nicole hits and blocks at a nice level and serves very well.  All in all a great move almost every time used. 

I think we sometimes forget how young and inexperienced this group really is. Murphy and Hill are second-year players and Dixon and Robinson are in their first year with Team USA! I see a very bright future and lots of growth between now and Rio. I also want to mention that Dominican Republic has really improved and come on, they barely lost to China tonight, 3-2, and still have a match tomorrow with Brazil. They have improved a significant amount and are a real challenge for the USA inside NORCECA and to qualify for Rio. They have a physical team that has learned how to use that physicality and have surprised a lot of people here with their level of play and performance. 

So all we can do now is wait and hope for the best and try not to put our future in the hands of other teams again. 

Hope for good news tomorrow, DB

NOTE: Doug Beal is the chief executive officer of USA Volleyball