Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - August 19, 2011

USA women's volleyball team looks to start another winning streak

Americans want to defend Grand Prix title

by Bill Kauffman

Stanford grads Foluke Akinradewo and Logan Tom, and the rest of the United States women's national volleyball team look to get back on the winning track after absorbing its first loss of the FIVB World Grand Prix on Sunday, something it had not experienced in 16 previous World Grand Prix matches dating to last year.

The U.S., ranked second in the FIVB world ranking, entered the final match of Pool H against Serbia with a 5-0 record after beating NORCECA rival Dominican Republic, 25-22, 25-22, 25-10, and host Japan, 25-22, 25-14, 25-18, over the weekend.

Serbia, team the Americans beat the first week of preliminary play, came out fired up.

"As always, we are trying to get better and Serbia taught us a few things" U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon said.

The Americans are in Hong Kong this weekend to continue pool play. The U.S. plays Germany, Italy and Peru. The matches, as well as the first six matches held in China and Japan, can be viewed online at universalsports.com.

"Now we have to get the ball rolling again," U.S. Women's National Team captain Jennifer Tamas said. "We will go to Hong Kong and try to play better volleyball."

Team USA is in third place in the FIVB World Grand Prix standings through the second preliminary round weekend. Russia (18 points, 6-0 record) leads the 16-team tournament, followed by Brazil (18 points, 6-0). Italy ranks fourth (13 points, 5-1 record), behind the U.S., while Serbia (13 points, 4-2) moved up into fifth place after its win. Germany (4 points, 1-5) is currently 13th in the standings, while Peru (0 points, 0-6) is in 16th place looking for its first set or match victory.

The top seven teams in the preliminary round standings plus China advance to the FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round to be held Aug. 24-28 in Macau, China. With three matches left in the preliminary round, only China, as the host, has clinched a spot in the Final Round.

Through the second weekend, United States' Destinee Hooker ranks as the fifth-best scorer in the event with 93 points (77 kills, 12 blocks, 4 aces). Foluke Akinradewo, the 2010 FIVB World Grand Prix MVP, is tied for 21st in scoring with 73 points (48 kills, 21 blocks, 4 aces). Heather Bown ranks 34th with 60 points (42 kills, 14 blocks, 4 aces), and Megan Hodge is in 37th with 58 points (45 kills, 3 blocks, 10 aces).

Hooker ranks ninth in Best Spiker with a 40.53 kill percent, while Hodge is 12th in the same category with a 39.13 kill percent. Akinradewo holds a 59.26 kill percent on 81 attempts which would lead all players, but does not meet the FIVB minimum requirement. Akinradewo has just under 13 percent of the Americans' attacks, with the minimum being 15 percent.

The U.S. has three of the top 20 blockers in the tournament. Akinradewo ranks fifth in Best Blocker with 1.00 blocks per set, while Bown averages 0.67 per set for 13th place. Hooker is ranked 19th with a 0.57 block average.

Jordan Larson leads the Best Server category with a 0.57 service ace average based on 12 aces in 21 sets played by the U.S. Hodge has added a 0.48 service ace average for third place. Despite playing in only five of the six matches so far, Lindsey Berg is ranked sixth in Best Setter with a 6.71 running set average on 386 total set attempts.

Bill Kauffman is an Associate Director of Communications for USA Volleyball

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