US Olympic Volleyball Team 2012: US Women Favorite to Win Gold

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US Olympic Volleyball Team 2012: US Women Favorite to Win Gold
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Four teams remain in the women's indoor volleyball competition in the 2012 Olympics, and the United States is the favorite to win the gold medal.

The team is undefeated through six matches in London, according to NBCOlympics.com. It has only dropped two sets in the entire tournament, so they have not been faced with a challenge to this point.

In Thursday's semifinals, the Americans will take on South Korea for a spot in the title game. The two teams met in the opening round of this tournament, so South Korea will be huge underdogs.

Team USA won 25-19, 25-17, 20-25, 25-21. South Korea pulled off an upset against China in the quarterfinals, but have to face the top-ranked Americans in the next round. Since losing a set in the second game, the United States has won 13 straight sets.

On the other side of the bracket, Brazil and Japan will play for a spot to play in the finals. 

Brazil is the biggest threat to defeat Team USA, but even they do not stand much of a chance. The teams met in the second game of the Olympics, and it was the last time the Americans lost a set. They won the game 25-18, 25-17, 22-25, 25-21.

The Brazilians have not lost another game in this tournament, but they have been tested. They were pushed to five sets against Russia, Turkey and China. Although they held on to win each game, they will need to be perfect to challenge the Americans.

One of the biggest surprises of the quarterfinals was Japan knocking off China in five sets. Japan's only losses came at the hands of Russia and Italy, but the games were not close. They then knocked off the team that finished second in Group B in the quarterfinals to earn a matchup with Brazil.

Elsa/Getty Images

Destinee Hooker has stepped up and led the Americans to six straight wins. NBCOlympics.com lists her as one of the top scorers in the tournament, and none of her teammates are even close to her in that category.

Hooker has been the team's most consistent scorer, and she is one of the most athletic players in the tournament. She won three NCAA outdoor high jump national titles while at the University of Texas, so she is naturally talented.

As ESPN.com reports, captain Lindsey Berg was hurt in the final game of pool play and may not be available for the semifinals. Coach Hugh McCutcheon is not tipping his hand, so nobody will know if Berg will play for sure until Thursday's semifinal.

McCutcheon led the men's team to a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and his experience will lead the women to their goal this year.

The United States women's team took silver in Beijing, and they are looking to end Brazil's reign at the top of the world. The Americans took the No. 1 spot in the world from Brazil last year, but now they need to win an Olympic gold to solidify their ranking.

Since the team has won 18 of 20 sets in London, it will be the favorites entering the semifinals. South Korea and Brazil each lost two sets in the first game, and they have lost more since then. It took Japan until its second game to lose a set, but they also lost the game.    

With the United States already beating two of the three other teams remaining, they have the mental advantage over those teams. They will probably not have to face Japan in the finals, so they will not go up against an unfamiliar opponent. 

Team USA will easily advance past South Korea in the semifinals, and Brazil will take care of business on the other side of the bracket. It will set up a United States-Brazil gold medal match on Saturday.

Brazil will challenge the Americans, but they will not be able to defeat the best team in the world. McCutcheon's team is too talented, and they are out to prove they deserve the top ranking.

The United States has never won an Olympic gold medal in the event, but they came close in 2008 before losing to Brazil in the finals. The team is reaching its potential, and they will be the last team standing after Saturday's game.

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