As the No. 1 women’s team in the FIVB rankings, Team USA was expected to reach the gold medal match of the 2012 Olympics tournament in London. Now, only the gold medal match awaits, and Team USA has dominated its competition in getting there.
It seems as if every time Team USA draws up a play, the opposition gets the ball stuffed right back in its face. In fact, even the opposition’s set plays are getting redirected back to their side of the net.
Team USA has done it with a relentless attack. The Americans have a tournament-best 34.72 percent spike efficiency rating, meaning they are scoring on just over one-third of their spikes.
This is nearly 10 percent better than the tournament average of 25.85 percent.
Individually, Destinee Hooker’s 38.91 spike efficiency rating ranks No. 1 amongst stat qualifiers. Jordan Larson’s 31.65 rating is sixth-best.
Overall, Hooker is No. 2 in scoring with 147 points. Foluke Akinradewo ranks No. 12 with 84 points. Larson’s 76 points are tied for No. 17.
Team USA has blocked its opponents from scoring better than any other team in the tournament. The Americans average 3.35 blocks per contest.
Two of the top individual blockers represent the stars and stripes. Akinradewo leads all competitors with 0.96 blocks per match. Hooker’s 0.91 blocks per game are tied for second.
As the second-best setting team in the tournament (14.39 sets per match), Team USA is allowing itself to control the tempo of its matches with offense. More sets means more chances to throw down a powerful spike, and we can see that the Americans are spiking with relative ease.
Lindsey Berg does the bulk of the setting for Team USA. Berg’s 9.91 sets per match rank No. 4 individually.
Libero Nicole Davis has done well for Team USA, as her 7.87 success percentage ranks third amongst her peers. The libero position is a defensive one, as it is not allowed to place the ball over the net. As a result, the libero is usually the shortest member of the volleyball team. The libero also wears a different color jersey than the rest of its teammates.
Since the calendar turned to August, Team USA has not given up a game to its opponents.
On July 30, the Americans took care of Brazil—the No. 2 team in the FIVB rankings—by a score of 3-1. Handing the next best team in the tournament that authoritative of a defeat made Team USA’s chances of winning gold all the more likely.
In 2012, it appears that in women’s volleyball, Team USA is in a different league than the rest of the world.
This calendar year, Team USA has lost only one match—on July 14 to Cuba in 2012 Women’s Pan American Cup pool play. With the dominant Olympic run, that seems like a long time ago.
Team USA has a 245.00 to 217.50 lead over Brazil in the FIVB world rankings. If the Americans can hold on and win gold in London, I think they will expand the gap between themselves and the rest.
Whatever plan head coach Hugh McCutcheon has drawn up for the squad has worked. Team USA’s far from broken strategy needs no fixing.
McCutcheon led Team USA men to gold in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Shortly after, he took over the women’s program, which has never won Olympic gold. Look at them now.
McCutcheon begins his first full season as the head coach of the University of Minnesota women’s team after the 2012 Olympics.
McCutcheon takes things one match at a time, even though Team USA is clearly the best on paper. According to K.C. Johnson of Chicago Tribune, whose article appeared on LATimes.com, McCutcheon said:
Everyone is going to be coming after us just because of the three letters we have on our shirt.
Has Team USA, then, dominated simply through intimidation? The rest of the world’s A game seems to be no match for the Americans, assuming it has brought it.
Recently, women’s volleyball has done a lot to put itself in the American conscious.
Of course, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings brought home their third straight Olympic gold in women’s beach volleyball. This time, the pair defeated fellow Americans April Ross and Jennifer Kessy in the gold medal match.
On the college court, Penn State women’s volleyball won 109 consecutive matches up to Sept. 10, 2010. According to gopsusports.com:
During the streak, which is the longest Division I women’s streak in history and second overall only to the Miami men’s tennis team’s streak of 137 straight matches, the Nittany Lions won an unprecedented three straight NCAA titles. Between Sept. 21, 2007 and Sept. 10, 2010, Penn State lost just 19 sets and won a record breaking 111 straight sets beginning with the final set of the 2007 National Championship match against Stanford and ending in the third set of the 2008 NCAA National Semifinal against Nebraska. In addition, Penn State won an NCAA-best 55 straight road matches and was not out-blocked for 68 consecutive matches.
All things considered, my final thoughts about this topic: Team USA women are really good at sports that involve round balls and nets. Just ask Maya Moore, Abby Wambach and the Williams sisters, in addition to the volleyball players, about that.
UPDATE (9 Aug.): Team USA will meet Brazil in the gold medal match. Watch it during NBC’s evening coverage of the 2012 Olympics on Aug. 11.