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Volleyball - 19. September 2007.

U.S. Women Blank Trinidad & Tobago to Open NORCECA Championship

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 17, 2007) -
The U.S. opened all three sets with a quick advantage in never trailing in the match. The U.S. led 5-0 in the first set, 8-1 in the second set and 11-1 in the third set. Trinidad & Tobago scored back-to-back points only three times in the match.
Cassie Busse (Prior Lake, Minn.) paced Team USA with 12 points via nine kills on 18 swings and three aces. Ogonna Nnamani (Normal, Ill.) turned in 10 points through seven kills on 12 attacks and three aces. Heather Bown (Yorba Linda, Calif.) contributed seven points with four kills on six errorless swings and three blocks. Tayyiba Haneef-Park (Laguna Hills, Calif.) chipped in six points, all on kills. Danielle Scott-Arruda (Baton Rouge, La.) tacked on four points with three kills on five attacks and an ace. Jennifer Joines (Milpitas, Calif.), Robyn Ah Mow-Santos (Honolulu) and Katie Olsovsky (Hermosa Beach, Calif.) all added one point in the victory.

Team USA tallied 30 kills on 55 attacks with only eight errors for a .400 attack percentage and 55 kill percent. The Americans held a 9-0 ace advantage, while Trinidad & Tobago turned a 5-3 margin in blocks. Both teams faulted three times on the serve. The U.S. held Trinidad & Tobago to a negative .255 attack percentage (11 kills, 25 errors, 55 attempts).

"I was pleased with our intensity from start to finish in this match," U.S. Head Women's Volleyball Coach 'Jenny' Lang Ping said. "I also thought we served well. In past tournaments we've had problems with committing too many service errors, but today we were much better."
The U.S. starters were Ah Mow-Santos at setter, Bown and Scott-Arruda at middle blocker, Nnamani and Haneef-Park at outside hitter and Busse at opposite. Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.) is the designated libero for the tournament. Lindsey Berg (Honolulu) subbed into the match during the first two sets, then started the third set. Sarah Drury (Louisville, Ky.) entered the contest as a back-row specialist in the final two sets, while Olsovsky came off the bench in the first two sets.

"Our focus was to concentrate on our side and keep momentum going into the next two games by feeding off the hard work and fight that Trinidad gave in that match," Ah Mow-Santos said.

The U.S. continues Pool B action on Tuesday against Mexico at 3 p.m. CT, followed by Dominican Republic on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT to conclude the preliminary round. Pool A and Pool B winners advance directly to the medal round starting on Sept. 21, while the second- and third-place teams compete in cross-over quarterfinals on Sept. 20. The gold medal match is scheduled for 4 p.m. CT on Sept. 22.

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.

Darlene Ramdin led Trinidad & Tobago with six points, all on kills, while Rheeza Grant and Carleen Williams added three points in the loss.

The U.S. started the first set with a 5-0 advantage and traded points through 9-5. Team USA scored the next six points as Nnamani turned in two kills in the spurt. The Americans closed the set on a 6-0 run for a 25-9 victory.

Team USA claimed an 8-1 lead at the first technical timeout of the second set as Nnamani landed three straight aces. After a Trinidad & Tobago point, the U.S. stretched the lead to 14 points at 16-2 on eight unanswered points on Scott-Arruda's serve. The Americans ended the set at 25-7.

The U.S. established an 11-1 lead in the third set as Busse and Haneef-Park each turned in two kills. The Americans extended the advantage to 16 points at 18-2 as Busse served two aces in between two Bown kills. Busse concluded set at 25-6 with a back-row kill.

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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