USA Women's Teams Snatch Four Medals on Thursday

Matthew IrbySenior Analyst IAugust 21, 2008

If you're like me and would rather watch the Olympics—more importantly Team USA—than sleep, then Thursday was a big day for you in Beijing.

Thursday morning and evening (which of course was Wednesday night and early Thursday morning for the rest of us) saw the USA women's teams play in five matches.

Beach volleyball, soccer, softball, and water polo had their gold medal matches while indoor volleyball played in the semifinal.

Early in the morning and extending into the afternoon the beach volleyball duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh took on the top seeded Chinese team of Tian and Wang.

Just as we all expected May-Treanor and Walsh won their 108 straight match and became the first team in Olympic history to win back-to-back gold medals in beach volleyball, men's or women's.

The ladies dispatched of the Chinese team in straight sets, 21-18, 21-18, despite the constant rain throughout the entire match.

Later in the day Team USA women's soccer team took on Brazil in the gold medal match.

This is a women's team that, after losing international scoring machine Abby Wambach for the Olympics due to a broken leg, was considered by experts not to be competing for the gold, but for a medal nonetheless.

Regardless of what the experts said and drawing a tough group that included Norway and Japan, the ladies won their group and moved on to the elimination round.

In the first round they beat our northern border, Canada, 2-1, and qualified for the medal round that should have been against home nation China.  But the Japanese ladies upset China, and got their re-match with the Americans.

In pool play the Americans defeated the Japanese 1-0, this time 4-2 and the ladies moved onto the gold medal match against their "favorite" team, Brazil.

In 90 minutes, neither team scored and they moved onto two 15-minute overtime periods.  It took six minutes of that extra time for American Carli Lloyd to drive a ball past Brazilian keeper Barbara.

Team USA keeper Hope Solo did her part in saving six shots on goal and kept the USA women in the game all day.

Solo's saves and Lloyd's goal is all that Team USA needed to secure the gold medal in a match that many experts said the lady Americans would not reach without Wambach.

Team USA's softball team had been one of the most dominant teams in all of sports.  Undefeated in Olympic play, they were looking to win their fourth gold medal in four Olympic Games and possibly for the last time.

But it was not to be.

Uncharacteristic errors, lack of timely hitting with the bases loaded, and a home run allowed by an American pitcher led to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Team Japan in the gold medal game.

It was the first time that Team USA had to settle with the silver medal and hopefully not the last time.

The final of the gold medal matches involving Team USA was the ladies taking on the Netherlands in water polo.

The Dutch were looking to improve on their fourth place finish in the 2000 Sydney Games and not making the Olympics in Athens.  Team USA, the silver medalist in Sydney and bronze medalist in Athens, was looking to finally capture the gold.

After the first eight-minute period the Netherlands led 4-2, but a solid second period for Team USA tied the score at five at the half.

The second half was even more tight than the first, but behind seven goals on eight shots from the Netherlands Danielle de Bruijn, the Dutch outlasted Team USA 9-8 to win their first medal in women's water polo.

In the final medal round competition of the day for Team USA, the women's indoor volleyball semifinal matched up against the extremely tough Cubans.

In the quarterfinal Team USA defeated the No. 2 world ranked Italian team and today they would face the No. 3 Cuban team.

Earlier in pool play the Cubans defeated Team USA in straight sets, but coming off the epic five-set victory over the Italians, the ladies were ready.

And ready they were, this one was almost anticlimactic to watch.

In the first set, Team USA used some multiple point rallies and unforced errors by the Cubans to win 25-20.

In the second set, it was the same story, but with more American execution, 25-16.

Still on the Cuban sideline coach Antonio Perdomo and all the Cuban players seemed relaxed and confident that they could comeback just like they did against the Chinese when they were down two sets to none.

But Team USA is not China.

The Cubans did not change their game plan or their attacking styles, and before they could realize it Team USA had match point.

After a long rally Team USA got the point, 25-17.  They had swept the same Cuban team that not even a week prior swept them.

With the win Team USA will face the No. 1 seeded Brazil team on Saturday.

It was a big day for American team sports, with two gold medals, two silver medals, and a win that will guarantee either a gold or silver depending on how they fair against Brazil.

So to celebrate these shocking defeats and spectacular victories, I'm going to go take a nap.