US Olympic Volleyball Team: Underrated Athletes You Need to Know

Trevor MedeirosCorrespondent IJuly 28, 2012

US Olympic Volleyball Team: Underrated Athletes You Need to Know

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    When you think of USA volleyball at the Olympics, the first names that surely come to mind are those of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.

    Been there, done that.

    With all due respect to the queens of the beach, USA volleyball is so much more than decorated gold medalists like May-Treanor, Walsh and men’s indoor captain Reid Priddy.

    Whether it’s on the court or the sand, there are many other underrated U.S. volleyball players ready to break out in a big way at London’s Olympics.

    Here are some of them.

Rich Lambourne

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    The libero certainly is an unenviable position in the sport of indoor volleyball. He or she often has to be the quickest player on the court, contorting their bodies like a pretzel in an effort to dive to the floor and scoop up the other team’s kill attempts.

    It also doesn’t help that many of those kills are spiked towards them at what can seem like a million miles an hour. The libero, as the defensive specialist, is very important to the team’s success.

    If the United States men’s team wants to win another gold medal in London, then libero Rich Lambourne is going to have to be on his game.

    Lambourne already has Olympic experience, as he was a member of Team USA’s gold-medal squad in 2008. He was the team’s leading digger in international play last year, scooping up 180 balls in 107 sets played (1.68 digs per set).

    If Lambourne can duplicate that productivity during these Olympics, then Team USA’s defense will be mighty.

Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal

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    The United States men’s beach volleyball duo of Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal are back in the Olympics. This year, they’re hoping that their time in London will result in scoring a medal.

    The two competed together in Beijing four years ago and bowed out of the competition in the quarterfinals. After going through a rigorous two-year qualifying gauntlet, which saw them hold off fellow Americans Nick Lucena and Matt Fuerbringer for Team USA’s second and final spot in the Olympics, Gibb and Rosenthal are aiming to hit the medal podium in London.

    Surely, defending gold medalists Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers will be getting the majority of the American attention in London as they go for gold again. But don’t count out the emerging duo of Gibb and Rosenthal when it comes to making noise of their own across the pond.

    Their coach, Mike Dodd, recently told the Associated Press that he thinks his team is peaking at the perfect time. And it’s tough to argue against that, considering that Gibb and Rosenthal qualified for the Olympics in comeback fashion.

    A typical berth for Olympic beach volleyball is awarded through a point system. At one point in the process, Gibb and Rosenthal trailed by as many as 400 points.

    But they stormed back to claim their spot and now carry some serious momentum into London. If that momentum lingers, then we may see both American men’s beach volleyball teams medal.

April Ross and Jennifer Kessy

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    They say you never forget your first time. It’s safe to say that Americans April Ross and Jennifer Kessy won’t forget the experience of taking the sand at their first Olympic Games as a team in London.

    After barely missing out on the Beijing Olympics back in 2008, Ross and Kessy broke through by qualifying for London back in May.

    It goes without saying that nearly all of the attention will be focused on the legendary beach volleyball duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh as they go for a third gold medal.

    That may be a good thing for Ross and Kessy, as they can do their thing with a bit less media attention and slightly lower expectations. The duo has played well together over the past two years.

    During FIVB competition in 2011, they won a bronze medal in Brasilia and a silver medal in Shanghai. They qualified for London by placing fifth in this past May’s Beijing Grand Slam.

    If Ross and Kessy can go on a Cinderella run in London and somehow win a medal, they’ll certainly never forget their first Olympics together.

Lindsey Berg

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    The setter in volleyball is pretty much the equivalent of a quarterback in football or a point guard in basketball. If they’re not passing well, their offense struggles.

    If the United States women’s indoor volleyball team wants to get coach Hugh McCutcheon another gold medal (he won gold coaching the men’s team in Beijing), then the pressure’s going to be on setter Lindsey Berg to pass the team to success.

    However, it’s not like Berg isn’t ready for that kind of weight to be on her shoulders (or her setting skills). This is the third Olympic Games that Berg is competing in as a member of Team USA.

    And Berg has plenty of accolades on her volleyball resume, especially as of late. In 2011, Berg was named the USA Indoor Volleyball Female Athlete of the Year. That same year, she started 12 of 14 matches in the FIVB World Grand Prix, helping the Americans win a second consecutive championship.

    And she was a starter for the team during this year’s FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round when it defeated Olympic teams Brazil, Italy and the Dominican Republic.

    Berg’s ability to feed the ball to Team USA heavy hitters like Logan Tom will go a long way in determining if the American ladies can capture volleyball gold.

Logan Tom

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    It’s hard to envision star outside hitter Logan Tom as underrated. As she’s transitioned from young gun to seasoned veteran over the better part of a decade, she’s still considered one of the best hitters in the Olympics.

    London will mark the fourth Olympic Games in which Tom will be competing. When she made the Olympic team in 2000 at age 19, Tom was the youngest women’s team member in history.

    Considering that Tom is still regarded as one of new coach Hugh McCutcheon’s top players over a decade later speaks volumes about her longevity in the sport. It will be important for Tom to embrace the leadership role through her play and actions.

    If Tom can shepherd the team’s younger outside hitters like newcomers Jordan Larson and Megan Hodge, then Team USA could have the offense it needs to make a gold-medal run. It will be interesting to see how the underrated Tom leads her team in London.