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Volleyball - 20. September 2007.

U.S. Women Advance to NORCECA Semifinals with Sweep of Dominican Republic

Bill Kauffman
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: 719-228-6800
E-Mail: [email protected]

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 19, 2007) –  Team USA, as the winner of Pool B with a 3-0 record, advances directly to the tournament’s semifinal round on Friday. The time and opponent will be determined after Thursday’s quarterfinal matches. Dominican Republic finishes Pool B with a 2-1 record and will face Puerto Rico (1-2 in Pool A) in the quarterfinal round.

Ogonna Nnamani (Normal, Ill.) led a balanced American attack with 13 points on 11 kills, one block and one ace. Heather Bown (Yorba Linda, Calif.) secured 11 points in the victory with seven kills and four blocks. Tayyiba Haneef Park (Laguna Hills, Calif.) added 10 points with eight kills and two blocks. Danielle Scott-Arruda (Baton Rouge, La.) contributed six kills and two blocks for eight points, while Cassie Busse (Prior Lake, Minn.) chipped in six points. Katie Olsovsky (Hermosa Beach, Calif.) added a point late in the third set. Robyn Ah Mow-Santos (Honolulu) set the U.S. offense to a 49 kill percent on 73 swings with just four attack errors.

photo US Volleyball

“I am pleased with how this team is showing its maturity and carrying out the plans that we work on in practice,” U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach 'Jenny' Lang Ping said. “We have done a very nice job of holding down our errors - especially in serve and pass. We are looking forward to a day off to prepare for the semifinals.”

Team USA held a 10-3 margin in blocks to offset a 44-37 disadvantage in kills for the match. Both teams served out two aces.

“I thought we raised our level today with the level of competition,” Bown said. “We still have a long way to go to reach the level we must have to be successful in the semis and finals.”

Dominican Republic’s Bethania De La Cruz De Pena was the leading scorer for the match with 20 points through 19 kills and a block. Milagros Cabral de la Cruz charted 12 points all on kills in the loss. Cosiri Rodriguez Andino provided seven points, while Cindy Rondon Martinez added six points.

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. Lindsey Berg (Honolulu) and Olsovsky entered for Ah Mow-Santos and Busse, respectively, in a defensive double-switch in the third set. Sarah Drury (Louisville, Ky.) was subbed into the match in the third set briefly for Haneef-Park.

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.

Nnamani propelled the U.S. to a five-point, 25-20 victory in the opening set as she piled up five kills and an ace. Haneef-Park added three kills and a block in the set. The U.S. separated from Dominican Republic in the opening set with a 7-2 run to break an 8-all tie.

Team USA used a balanced offense in the second set to secure a 25-18 victory. Scott-Arruda tallied two kills and two blocks for four points, while Haneef-Park collected four kills. Trailing 12-10 in the middle set, Team USA rolled of five unanswered points with two kills from Haneef-Park along with a block from Bown for a 15-12 advantage. Leading 19-16, Scott-Arruda took over the down stretch with two kills and two blocks to go with a Nnamani block to end the set on a 6-2 spurt.

The U.S. recovered from a 16-13 deficit at the second technical timeout of the final set and came back to knot the score at 21-all. Bown tallied a kill and Nnamani followed with a back row kill for a 23-21 Team USA advantage. After a Dominican Republic kill, Bown slammed a kill down the line and put up a match-ending block for her fourth point of the set and third in the waning stages. Nnamani also added four kills in the third set.

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.

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