COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 5, 2007)
Team USA travels to Khabarovsk, Russia, for the second weekend of World Grand Prix pool play with matches against Cuba (Aug. 10), Russia (Aug. 11) and Kazakhstan (Aug. 12) in Group E. Earlier this weekend in Group C, the U.S. rallied to defeat host Poland in five sets on Friday and upset top-ranked Russia in three sets on Saturday.
China, the reigning Olympic champion and currently ranked third in the FIVB world rankings, opened the first set with a 3-0 lead, but needed an 8-0 run to overcome a 17-14 deficit to win 25-21. China won the second set 30-28 on its fifth set point try after saving one set point against it at 26-25. The U.S. battled back from a 5-1 deficit in the third set to tie the stanza at 19-all, but a 5-0 run by China led to a 24-19 advantage en route to a 25-20 victory.
"China put great pressure on us, especially with their serve and very fast attacks," U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach 'Jenny' Lang Ping said. "That pressure caused us to make errors - we lost a total of 20 points that way, which is nearly a whole set. We have to learn how to deal with quick attacks and combinations. We're still inconsistent in our training - the time we've spent together is not long."
Kim Glass (Lancaster, Pa.) turned in an American-high 16 points on 12 kills, three blocks and an ace. She added 13 excellent service receptions on 28 attempts and two faults. Tayyiba Haneef-Park (Laguna Hills, Calif.) chipped in 12 kills, one block and one ace for 14 points. Katie Wilkins (Lakeside, Calif.) charted 11 points with 10 kills and a block. Danielle Scott-Arruda (Baton Rouge, La.) tapped in five kills and a block, while Jennifer Joines (Milpitas, Calif.) registered three kills and a block. Robyn Ah Mow-Santos (Honolulu) and Cassie Busse (Prior Lake, Minn.) each provided one kill. Ah Mow-Santos was credited with 25 assists and eight digs. Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.) topped all players with 21 digs.
"I think that as far as our progress is concerned, we are doing fine for a young team," Glass said after the match. "We're excited that we can play together, but we still need to improve. We try to do it with every match."
China's serve caused problems for the U.S. as it held a 9-2 advantage in service aces. Team USA committed eight service errors to China's five. China held a 42.62 serve-receive efficiency, compared the American's 27.40. The U.S. held a 7-4 margin in blocks and 47-43 in digs.
"I'm very pleased with the overall performance of our team in the whole tournament," China's Head Coach Chen Zhonghe said. "As I said before, they are young and it's hard to demand that they play on the same, high level every time. This time it was very good, especially in the serve and dig."
Lang Ping started Ah Mow-Santos at setter, Scott-Arruda and Joines at middle blocker, Wilkins and Glass at outside hitter hitter, and Haneef-Park at opposite. Davis is the designated libero for the Group C portion of the World Grand Prix schedule. Candace Lee (Eugene, Ore.) and Busse entered as subs in all three sets. Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.) was moved into the rotation in the first and second sets.
Yuehong Zhang led China with 13 points on 11 kills, one block and one ace. Captain Suhong Zhou tallied six kills and five of China's nine aces. Juan Li charted 11 points all on kills. Yunwen Ma added nine kills and a block for 10 points. Qiuyue Wei recorded 38 assists in leading China to a 40.5 kill percentage.
"We're very happy that we won," Zhou said. "Both teams played on a high level but our serve and defense were better."
Poland hosts China at noon MT to conclude today's Pool C matches. In Pool A, both matches today lasted five sets with a near upset. Kazakhstan defeated Dominican Republic 25-19, 25-23, 21-25, 21-25, 15-13. Cuba needed to rally from a 2-1 set deficit to defeat host Japan 20-25, 25-18, 21-25, 25-20, 15-13. In Pool B at Verona, Italy, Netherlands defeated Chinese Taipei 25-16, 25-19, 25-13 and Italy hosts Brazil later today.
After concluding Group E matches next weekend, Team USA closes out the preliminary round at Macau, China, with contests against China on Aug. 17, Cuba on Aug. 18 and Netherlands on Aug. 19.
The top five teams in addition to Finals Round host China advance for the chance for the Grand Prix title in Ningbo, China. A round-robin format will declare the champion.
China opened the first set by scoring the first three points before a Glass kill got the U.S. on the board. China increased the advantage to four points at the technical timeout, 8-4, as Team USA committed its third error in the early going.
The U.S. cut the deficit in half at 8-6 on consecutive kills from Scott-Arruda and Joines, but China answered with two straight points for a 10-6 lead. Glass turned in consecutive points on a kill and block to pull the U.S. to within two at 10-8. The U.S. rattled off four unanswered points on a Joines kill, Haneef-Park ace and two China errors to claim its first lead at 14-13. The U.S. took a two-point cushion into the second technical timeout after Wilkins and Ah Mow-Santos chalked up kills at 16-14. After the break, Glass added a kill as part of the 3-0 run and 17-14 advantage. However, China rolled off eight unanswered points, including three aces from Suhong Zhou, to regain the lead at 22-17 before a Scott-Arruda kill ended the spurt. Team USA saved three set points with a Chinese error, Glass kill and Busse kill to close to within three at 24-21 before China ended the set at 25-21. Glass finished the set with six points, the same total of points Team USA gave China on errors.
China obtained the first two-point advantage of the second set at 6-4. China pushed the lead out to three points at 9-6 with back-to-back points. The U.S. sliced the gap to one at 9-8 with a kill from Joines and Glass ace. Team USA tied the set at 10-all after a Haneef-Park kill. Wilkins followed with a kill giving the U.S. an 11-10 advantage. However, China answered with four unanswered points for a 14-11 lead. A Wilkins block and Haneef-Park kill closed the deficit to one at 14-13. The U.S. tied the set at 15-all after a Wilkins kill and Scott-Arruda block. China netted consecutive points to take an 18-16 advantage, but the U.S. answered with a Glass kill and Joines block to tie the set back at 18-all. China responded with consecutive points to retake a two-point lead at 20-18. Glass pounded a kill and was followed by a Chinese error to knot the score again at 20-all.
China gained a two-point cushion at 23-21. Team USA tied the set back up at 23-all and saved set points at 24-23 at 25-24. After Glass put down a kill to tie the set at 25-all, the U.S. gained its first set point at 26-25 on a Chinese error. China save the point and returned to the lead at 27-26. China finished the set at 30-28 by winning its fifth set point chance. Glass tallied seven points in the period.
China scored four straight points on Zhou's serve to take a 5-1 lead to begin the third set. The U.S. cut into the margin as Wilkins turned in two kills around a Haneef-Park ace to make the score 6-5. China went into the first technical timeout on consecutive points leading 8-5. Team USA moved back to within one at 9-8 as Haneef-Park tacked on a kill followed by a Glass block. China extended its lead back to three at 14-11 on consecutive points. Scott-Arruda provided the U.S. with consecutive kills to close the gap to one, 15-14. China responded with consecutive points of its own to return to a three-point advantage, 17-14. Scott-Arruda provided a kill and service winner to make the score 17-16. The U.S. tied the set at 19-all after a Haneef-Park kill and Chinese error. China responded quickly with five straight points for a 24-19 advantage. Haneef-Park saved the first match point with a kill, but could the U.S. could not stop China at 25-20.