There was no anger behind the gentle but savvy tip from the fingers of Highland High alum Logan Tom that ended the match between the world's two best volleyball teams.
That's because the U.S. players say they're no longer agonizing over what second-ranked Brazil took from them four years ago in Beijing.
On Monday afternoon at Earls Court in London, the top-ranked team proved it by treating the defending Olympic champions like just another squad standing in the way of their goal to be the first U.S. women's volleyball team to earn a gold medal in the sport.
"It's four years ago," said Tom after the U.S. defeated Brazil 25-18, 25-17, 22-25, 25-21. "I don't even look past right now."
Tom, a four-time Olympian, isn't alone in that sentiment.
Her teammates are not stewing over a loss four years ago. Instead, they're reveling in this Olympic moment and the fact that they're the world's best volleyball team. In fact, beating Brazil was a necessary part of the Olympic tournament's pool play, but it is the fifth straight time the U.S. squad has bested the Brazilians.
Head coach Hugh McCutcheon, who led the U.S. men's team to a gold medal in 2008, wasn't overly impressed with his team's victory.
"Certainly, it was a strong performance today," McCutcheon said. "But I didn't see a perfect match of volleyball."
Team captain and setter Lindsey Berg said that's the best part of Monday's victory.
"I don't think I've seen our peak yet, the whole quad," Berg said. "And that's exciting and scary, because I think we're amazing."
The team was led by two first-time Olympians, Destinee Hooker (Texas) and Jordan Larson (Nebraska), but Tom was key in the win with stellar serving and great play on the back row. She earned 12 kills and had just a single hitting error.
"As a team we played well and improved from the first match," Tom said. "Brazil is good technically and is fiery, so when they got ahead it was hard to catch up."
Hooker earned a match-high 23 points with 22 kills and a block. Larson added 18 points, 16 kills and two blocks.
"There were some ups and downs, but we played really well," Larson said. "We had a tough start, but we found our rhythm. Brazil is always (a) battle, but we came strong for the win."
Kobe Bryant, who's befriended Berg, was in the audience and was shown repeatedly expressing disbelief at the way the women could put the ball away.
The U.S. fell behind in the first set, but battled back thanks to a 6-1 run that helped them take the momentum and the first set. The second set belonged to the Americans who jumped out to a 16-7 lead and eventually a 25-17 win. Brazil fought back in the third set to defeat the U.S. 25-22. In the fourth and final set, the U.S. led by at least two points the entire set.
Brazil held advantages in blocks (7-4) and aces (3-0), but had 12 fewer kills than the Americans (66-54). Further, the Team USA defense held Brazil to a .269 hitting efficiency (54-15-145). The Americans held a 71-55 margin in digs and produced a higher service reception percent (74.6 to 71.6).
"There are lots of different styles being played at the tournament and everyone has a different method to their madness and plays to different strengths," Larson said. "The Russians are big and tall and very powerful, whereas teams like Korea are very clever and run combos. They're both difficult to play against, but it's probably more difficult to play against big sides like Russia."
The preliminary round consists of a six-team round robin played every other day. The top four teams in each of the two pools advance to the Aug. 7 quarterfinals with the pool winner facing the crossover fourth-place team. The second- and third-place teams are drawn into quarterfinal lots against the opposite pool. The semifinal round takes place on Aug. 9, followed by the medal round on Aug. 11.
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