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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Nov. 15, 2007) – The U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team, with five players in double-figure scoring, clinched a berth into the 2008 Olympic Games with a 25-17, 25-14, 25-20 victory over Japan Thursday evening on the second to last day of the FIVB World Cup at Nagoya, Japan.
The U.S., ranked eighth in the latest FIVB world ranking, improves to 9-1 in the FIVB World Cup and is in sole possession of second place. Japan, ranked seventh in the world, falls to 6-4 in the tournament.
“I am very relieved,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach ‘Jenny’ Lang Ping said. “I feel great because the team came here four days before the start of the tournament and we had a very short time to get together. But the players are working very hard and concentrating on each match. Especially we have some older players who have played with injuries, so I am very proud of them. We were down yesterday but the players were still very positive and played very well.”
“I am very excited and proud of my players,” said Team USA middle blocker Danielle Scott-Arruda (Baton Rouge, La.). “One of our objectives was not to let Japan out-hustle us. We fought very hard for each other. It is always difficult to qualify for the Olympics from the World Cup because it is the best teams. We had a setback yesterday and today we refocused and achieved our goal. It alleviates some of the stress we would have had playing in the NORCECA qualification or after that. Now we can go to our professional leagues. Our teams are happy, everyone is happy!”
The FIVB Volleyball World Cup, held every four years in the preceding year to the Olympics, is the first of three Olympic qualification steps for Beijing 2008. The top three teams at the World Cup qualify for the 2008 Olympics. The FIVB World Cup is a 12-team event with a round-robin playing format of 11 matches in 15 days.
In key contests earlier today affecting the medal race and subsequent Olympic qualification, Brazil (8-2) dominated Serbia (7-3) 25-13, 25-14, 25-21 and Italy (10-0) topped Cuba (7-3) 27-25, 25-19, 25-16. Based on Italy’s victory over Cuba, Team USA needed to just defeat Japan today to earn a berth in the 2008 Olympic Games with one match remaining. Italy can finish no lower than a tie for first with the U.S. However, the Americans have a monumental task to make up the difference in the tiebreaking point ratio with Italy (1.444 to 1.180). Brazil will secure an Olympic berth with a win on Friday against Japan, and also holds a sizeable tiebreaker advantage over Cuba and Serbia should it lose to the host country on the final day.
For Lang Ping, she returns to the Olympics in her hometown of Beijing.
“For athletes and coaches the Olympic Games is a dream,” Lang Ping said. “I have been there as a player and a coach. Also, Beijing is my hometown, and I feel like I am going home, with the USA volleyball family. Hopefully we will have a great performance there.”
The U.S. wraps up the competition on Friday, Nov. 16, at 3:05 p.m. local time (11:05 p.m. MT on Nov. 15) against tournament leader Italy. Other matches affecting the medal race include Cuba versus Serbia and Brazil against host Japan.
During the match with Japan, the U.S. used scoring runs of 7-0 and 4-0 to overcome an early 6-3 deficit in the first set to win 25-17. Team USA racked up a 9-2 scoring run in the second set and used nine blocks to win 25-14. The Americans rattled off five unanswered points to break an 8-all tie in the third set to gain a 25-20 victory.
The U.S. started Scott-Arruda and Heather Bown (Yorba Linda, Calif.) at middle blocker, Logan Tom (Salt Lake City, Utah) and Kim Glass (Lancaster, Pa.) at outside hitter, Tayyiba Haneef-Park (Laguna Hills, Calif.) at opposite and Robyn Ah Mow-Santos (Honolulu) at setter. Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.) is Team USA’s designated libero for the World Cup.
Tom and Haneef-Park each tallied match-high 13 points to spark Team USA. Tom scored her points via 10 kills and three blocks, while adding five digs and seven excellent service receptions on 17 attempts. Haneef-Park contributed 11 kills on 18 errorless attacks, one block and an ace. Scott-Arruda turned in four blocks, six kills and an ace for 11 points. Glass added eight kills on 16 errorless attempts, two blocks and an ace to go with five digs and nine excellent service receptions on 16 errorless attempts. Bown rounded out the scoring with six kills and four blocks for 10 points. Davis charted a team-high nine digs to go with nine excellent receptions on 13 errorless attempts. Ah Mow-Santos chipped in 17 assists and allowed the U.S. to connect for a .458 hitting percentage (.494 kill percentage).
Team USA’s success at the World Cup has been hard work over the last three years, along with the recent addition of Tom and libero Stacy Sykora (Burleson, Texas).
“Last year we had some young players and our team was not complete,” Lang Ping said. “We were working with our young players for the last three years, and now Logan Tom and Stacy Sykora have rejoined the team to complete the preparations. We are lucky to have them. Also our young players are improving a lot.”
Team USA out-blocked Japan 14-4 for the match, while also holding a 41-32 advantage in scoring attacks. The U.S. served three aces and did not allow a Japan ace on serve-receive. The Americans held their errors to 15 for the match while benefiting from 17 Japan hitting and serving errors. Japan held a 48-24 lead in team digs. However, Japan was limited to a 28.1 kill percent with 22 attack errors.
“We were completely overwhelmed,” Japan Head Coach Shoichi Yanagimoto said. “We have much to improve, but tomorrow what we have to do is try our best. During the game I think it was a little effective to replace some players. Four years ago we had nothing to lose and we worked hard, but now we still have much to get over. We realize that it is not easy to clinch the medals.”
Miyuki Takahashi led Japan with 12 points, all on kills. Megumi Kurihara added nine kills for the Japanese, while Erika Araki contributed three kills and three blocks for six points.
In other completed matches today, Dominican Republic defeated Kenya 25-19, 25-16, 25-18, Thailand swept Peru 25-23, 25-22, 25-17 and Poland handled Korea 25-20, 20-25, 25-23, 25-19.
Teams not making the World Cup medal stand will have two other opportunities to qualify for the Olympics with continental qualification tournaments in December 2007 and the World Olympic Qualification Tournament in May 2008 at Japan.
Team USA matches during the FIVB World Cup can be seen on a delayed basis on NBC’s Universal HD network. For more details and broadcast times, go to click here.
Japan gained the first two-point cushion of the opening set at 4-2, then extended the gap to three points at 6-3. Team USA tied the score at 6-all as Glass put up a block around two Japan errors. Japan regained a two-point separation at 10-8. However, it was short-lived as Bown provided a kill starting a 4-0 U.S. spurt that included an ace by Haneef-Park and two Japanese errors at 12-10. Japan responded with consecutive points to knot the score at 12-all. Bown downed a kill followed by a Japan error to yield a 14-12 Team USA advantage. Consecutive Japanese errors and a Scott-Arruda kill stretched the U.S. lead to four points, 19-15. The U.S. increased the scoring run to seven straight points on a Scott-Arruda block, Tom kill, and Glass ace and kill for a 23-15 score. The U.S. won the set 25-17 on consecutive Japan errors. Tom and Glass both provided four points for the U.S., while the Americans took advantage of 10 Japanese errors in the period.
The U.S. built an early 3-0 lead in the second set as Haneef-Park tallied a kill, Tom a block and Scott-Arruda an ace. Japan responded with consecutive points to close to within 3-2. Haneef-Park and Bown connected for back-to-back kills to extend the U.S. lead to 5-2, but Japan put up two points in a row to close back to within one at 5-4. The U.S. rebuilt a three-point cushion at 7-4 with two points from Bown. Scott-Arruda and Bown scored back-to-back blocks to send the score to 9-5. Tom and Glass scored kills to give the U.S. a 11-6 lead. Scott-Arruda connected for a kill and two blocks on three consecutive plays to stretch the Team USA advantage to seven points, 14-7. Haneef-Park and Glass added a fourth and fifth straight point at 16-7. Japan cut the deficit to seven points at 16-9, but Haneef-Parka and Tom followed with kills to return to a nine-point edge at 18-9. Glass and Bown scored consecutive points to push the gap to 10 points at 21-11. Team USA closed out the set with an 11-point victory, 25-14. Bown scored six points in the second set to pace the U.S.
Japan tallied two straight points to grab a 5-3 advantage in the third set. Haneef-Park, Tom and Glass tallied consecutive kills after a Japan error to take a 7-5 lead on a 4-0 scoring run. Japan answered with two straight points to knot the score at 7-all. Haneef-Park hammered back-to-back kills and Tom stuffed a Japanese attack to give the U.S. an 11-8 lead. Tom added a kill and block to extend the scoring run to five points and yield a 13-8 score. Japan closed to within three at 13-10. The U.S. increased its lead to five points at 18-13 on a Japan error. Scott-Arruda put down two kills to help the U.S. take a six-point lead at 21-15. Team USA rolled its way to a 25-20 victory. Haneef-Park and Tom each recorded six points in the period to help spark the U.S. offense.