London 2012 Women's Volleyball: Gold Medal Match Analysis, Preview & More
With the matchup set for the women's indoor volleyball gold-medal round between Brazil and the U.S., it's time to take a look at how each team compares to the other as they vie for Olympic gold.
The Americans feature rising star Destinee Hooker, who's proven herself as one of the most dynamic scoring threats in London.
On the other end of the court, the Brazilians feature an equally explosive offense.
So here's the breakdown, and a little prediction, as we look forward to Brazil vs. Team USA.
How They Got Here
Both teams cruised to the elimination rounds as favorites to wind up in the gold-medal round.
Brazil, however, had a tough first-round match against Russia, barely escaping with a five-set victory. After that, they breezed by Japan 3-0 in the semifinals.
Team USA, on the other hand, hasn't dropped a set in the elimination rounds, sweeping 3-0 against the Dominican Republic to start, and Korea in the semifinals.
Brazil has one of the most potent offenses, and the biggest problem for opposing teams is that they never know where the sets are going.
Sheilla Castro leads the team with 125 points, but there are four other Brazilians in the top 20 in these Games. So if the Americans key on one hitter, look for setter Danielle Lins to go somewhere else with ease.
Led by one of the best pure hitters in the game in Destinee Hooker, Team USA tops the competition in scoring. Their 24.72 percent efficiency tops Brazil (second) by more than two percent. And the team is very good at not making mistakes, with only 85 faults.
Hooker leads the charge with 147 total points, including 123 kills, putting her in second overall. She's clearly the focus of the offense, but the rest of the team doesn't make mistakes either.
Brazil ranks eighth out of the eight teams who made the elimination rounds with a dig average of just 11.71 percent. Their 152 faults are far and away the most of any of the teams, something that could pose problems going up against the likes of Hooker.
Brazil blocks very well, but when they aren't able to get that first hand on the ball, they run into trouble. With a very offensive matchup on both sides, defensive stability may be the key.
For as good as their offense is, the Americans aren't nearly as effective with the serve as one would like. They only have 18 aces to 33 faults, compared to Brazil's 29 aces and 51 faults.
Team USA is going to have to make sure that they limit their mistakes, but also try and get as many points off the serve as they can so Brazil's offense doesn't get a chance to set up.
The best chance Brazil has at stopping the Americans' offense, especially Hooker, is to stop the ball at the net, before it gets back to the rest of the defense. Thankfully, the Brazilians have two of the best blockers in Thaisa Menezes (24 blocks) and Fabiana Claudino (23 blocks).
These two will likely be tasked with shadowing Hooker throughout the match to do anything they can to stop her. If they can do that, it's Brazil's game to win.
Hooker is getting all of the attention right now, and for good reason, but libero Nicole Davis has a success rate of 7.87 percent, which sits at third in the tournament. She's only had 31 faults in 261 dig attempts, which is pretty remarkable.
She's the key to setting up Team USA's dangerous offense. It all starts with making a good pass and that's exactly what Davis excels at.
The key to this entire match will be making the most stops on defense. Both teams have electrifying offenses, although they both go about their scoring in different ways.
The team who can shut down the key attackers the most will be in the best shape. Team USA's defense is a little more solid if the ball gets past the block and good passes are going to make a world of difference for each offense.
Look for nerves to play a part in the first few points for the Americans, but if they don't fall behind by a large margin right away and find a way to fight back they could be in very good shape.
In the end, I see Brazil's defense struggling at times to stop Hooker and company while the 24-year-old will lead an offense that will find its groove by the second set.
Final score: 3-1, USA.
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