The United States women's volleyball team downed Japan with a five-game exhibition victory Friday night at East High.
The U.S. broke a 2-game tie and a 14-14 score in the final game with two consecutive points to win the deciding game as well as the match.For those who might scoff at the current tour - an six-match series between the U.S. and Japan - as a meaningless post-Olympic encounter, U.S. Head Coach Taras Liskevych takes exception.
"We're a year-round program," said the former University of Pacific coach who took over Team USA three years ago and virtually started from scratch. "We don't begin and end with the Olympics . . . Basketball (the U.S. team) ought to learn that it isn't going to win with an all-star team."
So far, United States leads Japan 4-1 in the series, with tour concluding today in San Diego.
Liskevych won't deny that the team's future successes hinge heavily on its two youngest players - Caren Kemner and Reba Phipps, who are more often than not the kill-happy recipients of the U.S. sets.
Kemner, a 23-year-old out of the University of Arizona, is a two-time MVP for the national team, while Phipps, a 6-foot-3, 19-year-old California native fresh out of high school, seems already on her way to being the squad's spark plug.
In Friday night's affair, Kemner was crushing cross-court kills, Bev Robinson was putting her smashing down the alleys, and Phipps - well, she was spiking from the front and backcourts in a makeshift "what Reba wants Reba gets" attack.
Meanwhile, Japan was paced by the one-two combination of Kumi Nakada and Norie Hiro, with the former offering a series of low, quick sets for the latter to pummel.
After the Japanese opened with a 15-11 first-game win, the U.S. returned with a pair - 15-13 and 15-6. Japan forced the deciding fifth game with a 15-9 fourth-game triumph.
In international rules, teams can score points on the sideouts, with the finale resembling the speed round of a TV game show. Hiro's quick kills countered the multi-player U.S. attack, a 14-14 score being the 10th time the two were tied in the back-and-forth game. United States took the 16-14 game - and ultimately the match - on a Kemner kill and a combined block by Kemner and Jayne McHugh.