Well, the gold medal rematch that many expected would come to pass at the Games of the XXX Olympiad has come to fruition, and while the road traveled by each team to get there wasn't exactly as easy as expected, the United States women's volleyball team will get their chance to avenge their loss in Beijing four years ago when they face Brazil on Saturday.
The American women made quick work of South Korea in their semifinal matchup on Thursday, winning in straight sets, 25-20, 25-22, 25-22.
The match featured the two highest scoring women of the Olympic tournament, and as has been the case since they arrived in London, the Americans were paced by 24-year-old Destinee Hooker. She had 21 kills and three blocks while outdueling Kim Yeon-Koung of South Korea, whose 20 points were her lowest output in London.
The win by the U.S. sets the stage for a rematch of the gold medal final of the 2008 Beijing Games, a four-set affair won by Brazil. The Brazilian women held up their end of the deal as well on Thursday, destroying Japan, 25-18, 25-15, 25-18.
That dominant performance was a far cry from the Brazilian squad that entered the Olympics ranked second in the world but struggled in pool play, losing to the United States and South Korea and requiring five sets to beat Turkey and China. However, Brazilian star Sheilla Castro told the Associated Press, via nbcolympics.com, that her squad is playing much better now than they were earlier in the Games, stating that "now we're finally relaxing."
For the United States, the win over South Korea and shot at Olympic redemption wasn't the only good news they received on Thursday. Starter Lindsey Berg, who missed the quarterfinal match against the Dominican Republic with an injured ankle, returned to the lineup and played well. After the match Berg told the AP that she should be all-systems go for Saturday's showdown.
"It's game time and I feel great, and I don't care how I feel after Saturday. It's hard not to imagine that because this team is a gold medal-winning team," Berg said. "Of course I've dreamed it and it was a beautiful dream."
For the Americans to fulfill that dream and capture their first ever Olympic gold medal, they'll have to once again defeat their nemesis. It would certainly appear the Brazilian team's play has improved as the Games have moved along, but there's also no denying that not only has the United States looked the part of the world's top-ranked team at the London Games, but that they've also played the most consistent volleyball.
The United States also has an ace of sorts up their sleeves in Hooker, who has been the star of the tournament in London. The San Antonio, Texas native has racked up 147 total points in the London Games, trailing only the aforementioned Kim. While Hooker is a first-time Olympian, she has played like a seasoned pro.
Although the U.S. women's volleyball team hasn't received nearly the fanfare as men's basketball or even beach volleyball, Hooker, Berg and company have been nearly as dominant, winning every game and dropping only two sets total.
The Brazilians, in other words, would need to win more sets in one game than the Americans have lost in seven (including one against this same Brazilian team, who did take one of the two sets the U.S. has lost).
The Brazilians may get one more set, but they're not getting three. By the time all is said and done at Earl's Court Centre in London, the United States will capture that elusive gold medal and get Berg and the other veterans from Beijing a measure of payback in the process.
And really, what's more American than payback?
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