It's fitting that the U.S. women's volleyball team ended their first Olympic match with a stuff block as it's their blocking skills that gave them the edge against Korea Saturday.
On the first day of competition, the U.S. women overcame a scrappy Korean squad to earn a 25-19, 25-17, 20-25, 25-21 victory. Highland High alumnus Logan Tom finished with eight kills, a block and nine points. Tom struggled to put the ball away, especially in the third set, but that was partly because the U.S. squad wasn't passing very well.
The U.S. went on a 7-0 run in the first set to win and then led most of set number two. But Korea managed to rally from a 10-6 deficit to go on an 8-1 run and take the third set. The teams battled in the fourth set with the U..S. earning a slight advantage at the net. They out blocked the Korean squad 15 to 1.
"We are obviously excited to open our pool with a win," U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball Coach Hugh McCutcheon said. "It was a very tough game and Korea made us work a lot. We did some things pretty well, but I have also seen room for improvement. Overall it was a good performance and I am evidently happy with the result because we have started with a win. The players responded well especially after dropping the third set and they turned it around in a very good way to finish it off in the fourth set."
The U.S. is ranked No. 1 in the world and will play no. 2 Brazil on July 30 at 4:45 p.m. local time and 9:45 a.m. (MST).
Tom was solid in the match and had some great saves on the back row. But it was first-time Olympians Destinee Hooker, Jordan Larson and Foluke Akinradewo who led the U.S. team to a win. Hooker earned 21 points and had 19 kills on 42 attacks. Larson earned 16 points, had 14 kills on 33 attacks and one block and an ace.
Akinradewo had the match-high six blocks for 15 points.
"I was definitely nervous," Larson said of her first Olympic Games contest. "But it was fun to go out there and compete in front of a large crowd was great. Playing at the Qwest Center in Omaha certainly helped. We have been here training all last week and it was good to finally put someone else on the other side of the net to play."
U.S. team captain Setter Lindsey Berg earned 40 assists in the contest.
"We have beaten a tough and fast team and I am really happy for that, especially for those players who were celebrating their debut at the Olympics," said Berg, Hawaii. "I think that Jordan (Larson) and Destinee (Hooker) played superbly, but you know, they are so composed when they step out on the court that I even do not realize that this is their first time in the Olympic Games. They just look and appear like real vets. We have a day off to rest and regroup and get ready for the next match."
In addition to hold a commanding 15-1 margin in blocks, the U.S. edged Korea in aces 2-1. Korea was held to a 35.3 kill percent and .186 hitting efficiency as it committed 28 faults on attacks (15 blocks, 13 errors). Korea managed a 61-50 margin in digs and its excellent reception efficiency was slightly higher at 77.4 to 76.7 over the U.S.
Korea was paced in scoring by standout Yeon-Koung Kim's 29 points that included 27 kills on a match-high 63 swings. Song-Yi Han and Youn-Joo Hwang each added 12 points in the loss.
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