LONDON — Brazil has repeated as the Olympic women’s volleyball champion with a comeback victory over the United States. Saturday night’s final was played at London’s Earl’s Court.
The United States was seeking its first-ever gold medal in women’s Olympic volleyball, and after a dominating 25-11 opening set win, it appeared the Americans could achieve their goal.
But Brazil was able to regroup in the second set and never let the U.S. take control again, winning the next three sets 25-17, 25-20, 25-17, for the 3-1 victory.
Brazilian coach Jose Roberto Guimaraes, said after the first set, he had his players move away from their strengths and work instead on the U.S. team’s weaknesses. “We only could do it by exposing ourselves and doing stuff that we don’t normally do from strength. And in so doing, we had players who wouldn’t normally be attacking or counter-attacking doing so. Then when we were able to come back to our strong points, we did. And we were thus able to overcome the Americans blocking us and defending," he said.
U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon said they were aware the Brazilians made changes after the first set. “We tried to make some adjustments to counter that, but you could see that Brazil kind of grew and grew with confidence and also their ability to execute as the match went on. And it just became more difficult to get a foothold in there. You know, I think our athletes were trying and we were certainly talking about adjustments and doing the best that we could to try to counter what they were throwing at us, but ultimately it was a little too much," he said.
McCutcheon, a former New Zealand player, had guided the U.S. men’s volleyball to an upset win over Brazil at the last Olympics in Beijing, then took over the women’s program.
He had guided the U.S. women to the No. 1 world ranking and they had beaten Brazil in group round-robin play at these Olympics, 3-1. So the women had confidence they could beat Brazil again and win the gold, but it was not to be.
U.S. captain Lindsey Berg, a four-time Olympian who said this was her last, had trouble controlling her emotions at the post-match news conference, but credited Brazil. “Right now I still believe we’re a gold medal team and I’ll believe it for the rest of time. You know, Brazil, that was the first team that took us out of our rhythm, our system. They served tough and we got in some passing trouble which leads to me not being able to do what I do best and give my hitters the best opportunity," she said.
But Berg added they can still be proud of winning the silver medal, only the third time since women’s volleyball was added to the Olympics in 1964 that the U.S. women have done that. “We made an incredible run. We were undefeated all summer, and obviously it’s disappointing but obviously it’s an incredible journey that we did these last four years and I’m proud of my team," she said.
Like Berg, this was teammate Logan Tom’s fourth Olympics, and she too will move on to other things, but Tom says the U.S. team has a good base for the future. “The good thing about this team is a lot of the girls are young. For a lot of them this is their first (Olympics). They have a lot of room to grow and I think they are going to take this (experience) and roll with it. They’re really good girls. They work really hard, and they really want this (a gold medal) bad. So I think they are going to come back with a lot of fire and a lot of grit and I am excited to watch," she said.
In the match for the women’s volleyball bronze medal, Japan defeated South Korea 3-0 (25-22, 26-24, 25-21).