COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 18, 2007) -
Team USA improves to 2-0 in the tournament's Pool B and will face Dominican Republic (2-0) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT. The winner will advance directly into the medal round semifinals on Friday. The loser will face the third-place team from Pool A in a cross-over quarterfinal on Thursday at 8 p.m. CT. The NORCECA Championship match is set for Saturday at 4 p.m. CT.
Ogonna Nnamani (Normal, Ill.) sparked the U.S. offense with 14 points via 11 kills on 21 attempts to go with two aces and a block. Cassie Busse (Prior Lake, Minn.) was credited with 11 points all on kills in just two sets of action. Heather Bown (Yorba Linda, Calif.) turned in six kills on nine swings, two blocks and an ace for nine points. Danielle Scott-Arruda (Baton Rouge, La.) picked up nine points with a team-high four blocks to go with five kills on six attacks. Robyn Ah Mow-Santos (Honolulu) contributed six points with five aces and a kill in two sets. Tayyiba Haneef-Park (Laguna Hills, Calif.) tallied four kills on eight errorless attacks to go with an ace. Jennifer Joines (Milpitas, Calif.) and Katie Olsovsky (Hermosa Beach, Calif.) each tallied four points with just one set start. Lindsey Berg (Honolulu) scored all four of her points on four aces.
Migdalel Ruiz, Celia Cordova, Xitlali Herrera and Martha Revuelta all scored four points for Mexico in the loss.
The U.S. used a commanding 14-1 service ace advantage to put Mexico in tough serve-receive situations. The Americans also committed just three service errors with an aggressive service approach. Team USA also held a 7-1 margin in blocks. The setting combination of Ah Mow-Santos and Berg helped the U.S. to a 64 kill percent and a .537 attack percentage (43 kills, seven attack errors, 67 attempts). In contrast, the American limited the Mexicans to a 21 kill percent and negative .027 attack percentage. The U.S. defense has not yielded more than 13 points in any one set during the NORCECA Championship.
"I was again happy with the way we played today's match," U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach 'Jenny' Lang Ping said. "Good intensity throughout. These are important matches for us as each match is like another training session, given that we get our veteran players together for so few days."
The U.S. started Ah Mow-Santos at setter, Scott-Arruda and Bown at middle blocker, Nnamani and Haneef-Park at outside hitter and Busse at opposite. Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.) handled the libero duties. Sarah Drury (Louisville, Ky.) subbed into the match during the first set. Berg entered the second set as a reserve and started the third set. Olsovsky was a sub on a double-switch with Berg in the second set, then started the third set. Joines started the third set in place of Scott-Arruda.
"We had a second straight strong match from the entire team," Scott-Arruda said. "We are serving well. Mexico is a scrappy team and dug a lot of balls which allowed us to work on our counter-attack."
The NORCECA Continental Championship will not only crown the top team among North American, Central American and Caribbean nations, it will more than likely qualify two teams into the FIVB World Cup held Nov. 2-16 in Japan. The World Cup field includes the five continental champions, the four best Continental vice-champions based on the 2007 FIVB World Ranking, host country Japan and two wild cards as chosen by the FIVB and Japan Volleyball Association. The World Cup is the first 2008 Olympics qualifier with the top three teams earning an automatic bid.
Ah Mow-Santos started the opening set with four straight aces forcing Mexico into a timeout. The U.S. lead stretched to eight at 9-1 as the first set finished with a 25-6 rout.
Mexico failed to score consecutive points in the period. After leading 7-6 in the second set, Team USA secured five of the next six points to open up a 12-7 advantage. Mexico rallied to close to within one at 13-12, but Busse put down three straight kills for a 16-12 lead. After Mexican point, the U.S. netted the final nine points of the set as Bown and Haneef-Park each tallied two points in the run.
Berg started the third set by serving six straight points including three by ace for a 6-0 lead. The U.S. advantage reached 10 points at 13-3 with Bown and Olsovsky each tallying a couple points. Team USA rolled to the final set victory 25-10.
The U.S. enters the tournament as the three-time defending champion. The Americans have won the bi-annual event five times (1981, 1983, 2001, 2003 and 2005) and have played in the last eight championship matches against rival Cuba. At the last NORCECA Championship tournament held in 2005, Team USA won its third consecutive title with a five-set victory over Cuba in the gold medal match at Trinidad & Tobago. Cuba has won the most zonal championships with 12 titles, while the U.S. has earned the gold medal five times. Mexico captured the first championship in 1969 and repeated in 1971.