The United States' women's national volleyball team head into the final weekend of preliminary play with plenty of momentum thanks to a four-set victory over Puerto Rico on Sunday in the FIVB Grand Prix.
The U.S. currently resides in fifth place and will need to finish at least in fifth to advance to the six-team FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round, to be held in Ningbo, China beginning Aug. 25.
Stanford grad, four-time first team All-American, two-time AVCA National Player of the Year and three-time Olympian Logan Tom led the Americans with 11 kills, while Cardinal grad Foluke Akinradewo, also a four-time All-American, two-time collegiate Player of the Year and the NCAA career record holder for highest hitting percentage (.446) added eight kills and recorded a match-best .429 hitting percentage.
"I'm proud that we won all the matches here," U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon said. "We threw in emotion and energy to deal with the first set against Puerto Rico. We fought hard and we played as a team."
Tom had nine excellent receptions on 24 attempts and added six digs.
"Puerto Rico's serves are great," Tom said. "We just tried to improve our game. It's hard to play them, but we pulled our game and did our best. This is my first time with the team. It's the head coach's decision I skipped the first leg and instead came here to join the team."
Former Stanford greats Ogonna Nnamani and Cynthia Barboza also saw action over the weekend. Nnamani was the National Player of the Year (and Honda-Broderick Cup winner for top overall female athlete) in 2004, the same season Barboza won Gatorade Player of the Year honors while in high school.
Nnamani graduated as Stanford's all-time leader in kills and was a four-time All-American. Barboza was a three-time All-American while at Stanford.
Nnamani will be playing professionally with VK Prostějov in the Czech Republic. Barboza played with the league champion Toray Arrows in Japan this year.
The Brazil-China match was postponed until Monday out of respect to nearly 2,000 people who have died in mudslides in the country. China held a day of mourning on Sunday.
Japan and Poland currently lead the Grand Prix standings, each with 15 points. China could move ahead of both with a victory over Brazil.
Women's water polo
There were no surprises for the U.S. senior team, which arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand for the beginning of the FINA World Cup.
Stanford grad Brenda Villa heads the roster that will try to win the event for the first time since 1979. Australia, which just beat the Americans in the finals of the Six Nations Tournament, is the defending champion. The U.S. finished fourth last year.
Cardinal grad Lolo Silver, Stanford junior Melissa Seidemann and Cardinal sophomore Annika Dries are all on the squad. Veterans Jessica Steffens, a Stanford grad, Lauren Wenger and Heather Petri are out with injuries, but newcomers Anne Belden and Juliet Moss have been effective I their place.
"Our goals and expectations will always be the same no matter the group that we bring," U.S. coach Adam Krikorian said. "We realize that we have a younger and less experienced squad and understand that this experience, no matter the result, will be very beneficial for them individually and for us as a team heading into 2011."
The Americans play Russia to open the Cup on Tuesday. Australia and New Zealand are also competing in the same group.
"We are all very aware of the history of the women's team and understand that the ultimate prize at this competition has eluded many teams in the past," Krikorian said. "We would love to change that fortune but we must focus on the steps it will take to reach that goal."
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