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BEIJING (Aug. 17, 2008) – Logan Tom (Salt Lake City, Utah) scored six of her team-high 25 points in the final set and the U.S. Olympic Women’s Indoor Volleyball Team rallied from a 2-1 set deficit to defeat Poland 18-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-19, 15-13 on the final day of pool-play matches of the 2008 Olympic Games at Beijing’s Capital Indoor Stadium Sunday afternoon.
The U.S. (4-1), looking to reach the Olympic medal stand for the first time since 1992 (bronze in 1992, silver in 1984), concludes pool play with a second-place finish behind undefeated Cuba (5-0). Poland (1-4) entered the match needing a victory over the U.S. along with some help to earn a spot in the quarterfinals. Now, both China and Japan have qualified for the quarterfinals, but the match winner between the two teams tonight will be the third seed out of Pool A.
“We just wanted to take the opportunity today to play well and prepare for our quarterfinal match,” U.S. Olympic Women’s Indoor Volleyball Team Head Coach ‘Jenny’ Lang Ping said. “I still say our players are picked on and we are not playing very consistently. For us to have a good game in the quarterfinals, we will need to improve ourselves.”
The top four teams in both round-robin preliminary pools advance to the quarterfinals on Aug. 19 with the winner of each pool facing the fourth-place team in the opposite pool. A drawing of lots held after the press conference for the 10 p.m. Russia-Serbia match will determine the opponents for the second- and third-place teams against the opposite pool. The quarterfinal winners advance to the semifinals on Aug. 21, while the gold and bronze medal matches take place on Aug. 23.
Poland, which trailed 14-11 in the opening set, scored 10 of the final 12 points to take a 25-18 victory. Team USA reversed the opening set conclusion by trailing 18-15 in the second set, only to come back to win 25-21 by scoring 10 of the final 13 points with four points from Tom during the spurt. The U.S. battled back from a 14-9 third-set deficit to within two at 18-16, but Poland pocketed the 25-19 victory with six of the final eight points. The U.S. rolled to a 7-2 lead early in the fourth set and Poland never came closer than three points as the Americans won 25-19 to send the match into a tiebreaking fifth set.
The U.S. recovered from a 3-0 deficit to start the fifth and took a 7-5 lead, but had to rally once again from an 11-10 deficit to win 15-13. Tom scored the final two points with a block and kill after the set was tied at 13-all.
Tom tallied 18 kills on 39 swings, match-high six blocks and an ace in leading Team USA. Ogonna Nnamani (Bloomington, Ill.) came off the bench to score 17 points via 11 kills, three blocks and three aces. Heather Bown (Yorba Linda, Calif.) chipped in 11 points on 10 kills and a block. Kim Willoughby (Napoleonville, La.), who started just the last three sets, added nine points on seven kills and two aces.
Kim Glass (Lancaster, Pa.) contributed five points in the match, while Danielle Scott-Arruda (Baton Rouge, La.) and Jennifer Joines (Milpitas, Calif.) added four points. Tayyiba Haneef-Park (Laguna Hills, Calif.) turned in three points in just two sets of action.
Robyn Ah Mow-Santos (Honolulu) and Lindsey Berg (Honolulu) shared the setting duties. Ah Mow-Santos was credited with 63 set attempts and nine assists, while Berg had four assists on 50 attempts. Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.) compiled a team-high 16 digs to go with a team-leading 25 excellent service receptions on 34 attempts. Tom added 13 digs and 18 excellent service receptions.
“We are really happy going into the quarterfinals with this win,” Berg. “We feel Poland was going to be a tough team, which was going to come out today and play their hearts out as it needed to win to advance. We didn’t stop fighting. We are still playing a little up and down, which we need to improve upon.”
Lang Ping substituted freely during the match trying to find combinations that worked against Poland. The Team USA bench scored 30 points in the match. Lang Ping had 11 of the 12 players competing in at least two sets during the match.
“The tournament starts now. All of the players are in different physical conditions. Some players are a little tired. So I need to make sure to balance time, especially the bench players who haven’t played much but are in great physical condition. I need to give them the opportunity to get the match back. For the older players, they may need to rest a couple sets. Again, our players did a great job. For the USA team, we always play as a team, and try to avoid our weakness.”
The U.S. started captain Ah Mow-Santos at setter, Tom and Glass at outside hitter, Scott-Arruda and Bown at middle blocker and Haneef-Park at opposite. Davis is the designated U.S. libero for the Olympic Games. Nnamani played in all five sets, starting the final four sets. Willoughby started the final three sets after subbing into the match in the second set. Berg started the second, fourth and fifth sets, while Joines started the final two sets after coming off the bench in the third set. Stacy Sykora (Burleson, Texas) was a sub in the fourth set.
The U.S. held a 13-3 block advantage over Poland, and five of the blocks came in the crucial fifth set. Poland’s defense helped it stay close with a 70-59 dig advantage, along with a 10-7 ace advantage. However, the U.S. attacked at a 32.2 efficiency (kills minus errors divided by attacks) while limiting Poland to a 14.0 efficiency. Team USA received serve with a 67.4 success percentage with 62 excellent receptions on 92 attempts, while Poland handled 91 U.S. serves with a 78.0 success percentage.
“We knew our opponents would be fighting as it was do-or-die for them,” Bown said. “It was tough because we haven’t been stellar at early morning matches, but we fought hard in the last set and got it.”
Katarzyna Skowronska led Poland with 27 points as she provided 23 kills and four aces. Malgorzata Glinka contributed 14 points, followed by 12 points each from Agnieszka Bednarek and Milena Rosner.
The route through the Olympic Games preliminary round has been an emotional roller coaster for the American squad. Eight days ago, Team USA was informed of the tragic death of Todd Bachman, father-in-law of the U.S. Men’s Olympic Indoor Volleyball Team and father of 2004 U.S. Olympic volleyball player Elisabeth “Wiz” Bachman. Less than five hours of learning of the death on Aug. 9, the team won an emotion-filled four set match over Japan. However, the team suffered a letdown the following match on Aug. 11 against Cuba before bouncing back to defeat Venezuela on Aug. 13. Team USA played its best match of the tournament on Aug. 15 in defeating host China.