BEIJING As Western Hemisphere neighbors separated by less than 100
miles of sea water, the United States and Cuba have created a pretty intense
women's volleyball rivalry.
Coming into Monday's match between the two favorites of their Beijing
Olympics preliminary pool, Cuba held an 87-48 overall record in international
matches against the U.S. since 1983 but only 17-22 in the last 10 years.
Make that 17-23 for Cuba after Monday's three-set sweep of the Americans
at Beijing's Capital Gymnasium, where U.S. players and coaches were not so
much overwhelmed by the Cubans as much as they were underwhelmed by their
own effort in the 25-15, 26-24, 25-17 defeat.
"We expected a more competitive match from ourselves," said Danielle
Scott-Arruda. "What we can take away is to improve our serves and
minimize our errors. And more fight we lacked fight."
Monday's victors didn't show the U.S. anything they haven't seen before.
"Cuba is always Cuba," said outside hitter Logan Tom, the former Utah
high school standout. "They're going to jump high, they're going to hit hard
and they're going to bomb."
In the latest FIVB world rankings, Cuba is ranked No. 3 and the United
States No. 4, but the Americans seemingly played a number of notches below
that, with head coach "Jenny" Lang Ping critical of her team's instability
Cuba romped to an easy 25-15 first-set win, but the U.S. rallied in the
second and seemed set to even the score at 1-1, serving for set point at
24-23. However, Cuba ripped of three straight points for the game and a 2-0
lead and then cruised in the third for the sweeping victory.