Olympic Highlights You Might Have Missed, Part V: USA Volleyball Upset Italy

Matthew IrbySenior Analyst IAugust 19, 2008

Team USA women's volleyball team came into these Olympics trying to rediscover the magic that they used to have.  Team USA had not won a medal since their bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Since then, they've placed seventh in Atlanta, fourth in Sydney, and fifth at the Athens Games.  Things got even worse when the team finished ninth at the World Championships.

Enter Coach Jenny Lang Ping. She was team captain of the Chinese volleyball team that won gold in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Team USA then secured a bronze at the 2007 World Championships and fourth at the 2008 World Grand Prix.

They entered the Beijing Games looking to continue their positive vibes and competing their way onto the medal stand.

In their preliminary round, Team USA finished with a 4-1 record and was seeded second for the elimination round.  They recorded their biggest win over Ping's old squad China in their backyard.  The biggest disappointment was a loss to Cuba in which Team USA was swept 3-0.

Going into the elimination round, Team USA ranked second in Group A and drew the second ranked team in Group B.

If your raising your eyebrow right now, let me explain.  Two groups with six teams each play round-robin and then the top four move to the elimination round.  Group A seed No. 1 plays Group B seed No. 4 and visa versa, but for some reason Group A No. 2 and Group B No. 2 play each other as do the No. 3 seeds.

Therefore Team USA, ranked No. 4 in the world and looking to return to the medal round after the disappointing Athens Games, had to go through the powerhouse that is No. 2 ranked Italy.

This Italian team had a record of 4-1 in group play, losing only to Brazil, and then beating the rest of their other four teams by a set score of 12-1.

In the first set it looked as though Team USA had met their match in Italy, 25-20.  Team USA looked out of sync and were making simple mistakes.

But in the second set, Coach Ping did her maneuvering and used a double switch early with Kim Willoughby and Lindsey Berg. Berg was on fire as the setter and Willoughby went 4-4 in her kill opportunities.

It was the fire that the ladies needed and they won the second set 25-21.

But just as in the first set, the Italians came out strong. They led huge through the entire third set, winning 25-19 and putting the Americans one set away from the end of their Olympics.

But once again using the double switch, Team USA jumped out to a huge lead in the fourth set and after a rally late from the Italians, the Americans won 25-18 and forced the fifth and final set.

From there it was Team USA early and often.  The first three points were all won on blocks by the front row of Tayyiba Haneef-Park, Danielle Scott-Arruda, and Logan Tom (pictured above).

By the sixth point, Italy had used both of their timeouts and were trailing 6-0.

The Americans never looked back and the crowd could be heard chanting, "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, hey, goodbye" and "Arrivederci Italia!"

The United States advanced to the medal round, where they will once again lock horns with the Cubans, a team that this USA team beat in the 2007 World Championships.

With most of the media talking about the USA women's softball, basketball, and soccer teams, who are all dominating their competition, keep an eye on these volleyball ladies as they take on the Cubans and look to advance for a gold medal.