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LONDON 2012 | VOLLEYBALL: Third day of women’s action could be pivotal for some teams

LONDON 2012 | VOLLEYBALL: Third day of women’s action could be pivotal for some teams

London, Great Britain, July 31, 2012 – The third competition day of the Olympic Games women’s volleyball tournament could prove to be a turning point for some of the teams facing crucial matches with the results eventually affecting their London expectations.

The reigning atmosphere in Earls Court, both in the playing court and in the stands, could not be more appropriate to host the volleyball competitions, with capacity crowds enjoying every bit of the action and the players giving their maximum effort for the sake of their sides.

Wednesday’s schedule features an early important match between Dominican Republic and Japan followed by Algeria against Russia. The afternoon session presents one key contest of Serbia versus Turkey before Great Britain face off Italy, with the main dish reserved for the evening program when United States clash with China and Brazil meet Korea.

United States v China

Foluke Akinradewo (USA) fivb.org

China's Qiuyue Wei vs Serbia's Stefana Veljkovic (FIVB.org)

Top world-ranked United States downed defending champions and world No. 2 Brazil in their previous match and now they are facing the no less difficult hurdle of playing No. 3 and undefeated China. The books present China exhibiting an overall 32-21 win-loss advantage in the contests disputed by the two giants, but history also tells the last Asian victory against the Americans occurred during the preliminary phase of the 2007 World Grand Prix. Since then, USA have won seven times in a row, including a 3-0 win in the Finals of this year’s WGP. The tandem of Destinee Hooker and Jordan Larson has been on fire during the two victories against Korea and Brazil with Hooker totaling 44 points and Larson contributing 34. China team have regrouped and are rated as solid medal candidates, especially with Yimei Wang healthy again.

Brazil v Korea

Defending champions Brazil are in need of a wake-up call after a sleepy start in their campaign to validate the Olympic title. They first battled very hard to prevail in five sets against Turkey and lost two one-sided initial sets to USA before coming alive for a while in the third stage of their 3-1 loss. On the other hand, Korea emerged from their defeat to the hands of the Americans to punish Serbia carried on the back of a 34-point performance of superstar Kim Yeon-Koung, who leads the scoring charts with 63 points in two outings. History is in favor of the South American side as the Brazilians have won 33 of their 43 lifetime contests, including the last 13 and 30 out of 32. Korea won the first six meetings and last won back in 2003 World Grand Prix.

Dominican Republic v Japan

Saori Kimura of Japan spikes (fivb.org)

Dominican Republic's captain Milagros Cabral (left) spikes (fivb.org)

Japan leads the head-to-head series with a wide 10-2 margin having won the last four contests between these two sides. The second and last time Dominican Republic defeated Japan was at the 2009 World Grand Champions Cup when they claimed the bronze medal. After cruising against Algeria in their first outing, the Japanese battled hard before going down against Italy in four sets. The Dominicans had a very difficult schedule playing Italy and Russia in their first two matches but despite the two losses they showed glimpses of what they can do against opponents with a little less firepower. After a subpar performance in the first match, Bethania De La Cruz came back with a 26-point game against Russia.

Algeria v Russia

The only time these two teams saw each other was during the pool play of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games with a victory in favor of Russia. Chances are very high that the European side will continue improving their record head-to-head record while the African side will get a valuable experience of playing such powerhouse. Big Ekaterina Gamova was in full swing while scoring 22 points as a key factor in the victory over Dominican Republic with her booming spikes over the opponents’ blocking. Algeria relinquished a 2-1 lead against hosts Great Britain in Monday’s nightcap when they committed 42 unforced errors for the whole match.

Serbia v Turkey

The early going of the volleyball tournament has not been like a day at the beach for these powerful European teams with both empty-handed after two days of action. In the very competitive Pool B, it is almost a do-or-die match for both sides. The Serbians lost to China and Korea in four- set affairs while the Turkish were able to catch one point from their 3-2 lost to defending Olympic champions Brazil in day one before succumbing to the unbeaten China on Monday. A series of injuries have left Serbia’s coach Zoran Terzic with short room in which to maneuver and that is a factor that could have its effects in the team’s performance. The sides have twice played each other with Turkey coming out winners in both occasions.

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Tom picks group spirit as main asset of Team USA on quest for Olympic gold

London, Great Britain, July 30, 2012 – Team USA re-asserted its credentials for Olympic gold this afternoon at Earls Court by displaying a terrific performance to edge Brazil 3-1 in what was the most anticipated match of the day. Logan Tom, 31, is participating in her fourth Olympics in London and is definitely chasing her Olympic dream after having to be content with silver four years ago in Beijing. “I think the strength of this group is that we are very close, so this relationship really makes the difference out there on the court. It was not like that at the beginning, but we have gotten very close and even if an individual has ups and downs, the others are there to help and compensate for it. This is a really nice group and I am proud of being part of it”.

Logan Tom (#15) celebrates with teammates Jordan Larson (far left), Foluke Akinradewo (#16) and Destinee Hooker (far right). (Photo credit: FIVB.org)

Tom, who was born in Napa, California, spent the last season in Turkey where she helped Fenerbahce claim Europe’s most elitist competition, the CEV Volleyball Champions League, thereby completing a chase that had been lasting for the last three seasons. There she played together with Korean star Kim Yeon-Koung, who ammassed a terrific haul of 34 points to anchor her side to a 3-1 win over Serbia in the morning session at Earls Court. Invited by the FIVB to attend a special media event in connection with the “Heroes” campaign, Kim mentioned there that Tom is the player she looks at when it comes to an inspirational figure. Informed about the statement given by the Korean scoring machine, Tom laughs and says: “Oh, I am glad that she said that; she is an amazing person and an outstanding player. She is still very young and will be a major star for the years to come”.

On Saturday Team USA opened its Olympic campaign by edging Korea 3-1 and Tom agrees it looked a little strange to see her Korean friend standing on the other side of the net after spending the last season together.

USA's Destinee Hooker spikes (Photo credit FIVB.org)

Even though she scored “only” 12 points on Monday afternoon against Brazil, with Team USA paced by Destinee Hooker and Jordan Larson with 23 and 18 respectively, Tom looked like one of the real leaders of the group, making sure they were all sticking together to go for the win. She agrees with team captain Lindsey Berg who on Saturday had stated she does not realize the rookies of the group are making their Olympic debut here in London. “Yes, that’s true. They all play with great confidence, they have got that fire and fighting spirit that certainly helps go straight for the maximum goal. I know some people think this match with Brazil was a kind of pre-final, but we just want to take it match by match. We were assigned to a very strong Pool and I can only say I hope on that day where Olympic gold will be at stake, we’ll be part of the show. On the other hand, the opponent may be Brazil or some other teams, as there are many squads that can have a shot at the medals here in London”.

A very talented athlete – she competed also in basketball and track & field while attending Highland High School in Salt Lake City – Logan may crown an already memorable season that includes also the FIVB World Grand Prix title with the only medal that can contribute immortal glory. Olympic gold will be at stake on August 11 and Team USA has a mission to accomplish

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Denise J. Saul is the Founder/President of WSEN-Women's Sports & Entertainment Network.

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