Gold driving Scott-Arruda in fifth Olympics

LOS ANGELES – Danielle Scott-Arruda isn’t just the Mother Hen of the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team. The 39-year old middle blocker is there to contribute.

While she acknowledges it’s “quite an achievement,” Scott-Arruda doesn’t even want to talk about the fact that she’s making her fifth Olympic appearance this summer, instead putting the focus on the team.

“I’m not so much focused on having played five Olympics but what I can do to help this team be successful in London,” Scott-Arruda said. “I’m happy to be a part of this team and the fifth Olympics just kind of came as a part of that.”

However, it hasn’t stopped her teammates from talking about the rarified air Scott-Arruda is stepping in.

“She’s my big sister,” said outside hitter/opposite Tyyiba Haneef-Park. “I admire her. She’s stuck around through five (Olympics) and I wish more players could be like her. I wish I could have energy and strength to do that and I just truly admire her.”

Added outside hitter Logan Tom, “It’s her fifth Olympics. This is going to be my fourth with her and so I’ve seen her through a lot of years of it. …when she comes in you can count on her to do her job, to do it well, and the mental part especially. She’s there. She’s a fighter. She’s going to be a rock, which is what we’re going to need for someone to come in off of the bench.”

While Tom “highly doubts” she’ll stick around for another Olympics after the London Games, which begin next week, Scott-Arruda is just the third female volleyball player to make it to five Olympic Games and the first American. In London, she’ll be one of six U.S Olympians competing in the Olympics for the fifth time, joining Amy Acuff (track and field), Phillip Dutton and Karen O’Connor (equestrian), Khatuna Lorig (archery), Emil Milev and Kim Rhode (shooting).

Scott-Arruda joined the national team in 1994 after helping lead Long Beach State to an NCAA title in 1993. She was also an all-conference performer in basketball for the 49ers, becoming the first athlete to earn all-conference honors in two sports in one season.

Throughout her run with USA Volleyball, she’s only made the podium once in her Olympic career. That came in 2008 when the U.S. team won a silver medal. During the current quadrennial, she missed all of 2010 to give birth to her daughter, Julianne.

She returned in 2011 to help lead the US team to a silver medal at the FIVB World Cup and qualify for this year’s Olympic Games.

The drive for a gold medal is something that keeps her motivated in her 18th year with the national team.

“If there’s an opportunity to continue to play and go for a gold medal, it’s definitely deep within and you want to do that so you do everything you can to make that possible,” she said.

Heading into this year’s Olympic Games, the USA is largely considered the favorite to win the gold as the number one team in FIVB world rankings under head coach Hugh McCutcheon, who won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics as the head coach of the U.S. men. Those are huge expectations for a team that has never won an Olympic gold medal.

“I don’t think it adds pressure,” Scott-Arruda said. “I think we’ve prepared every day in practice and so having the number one ranking is a result of the work that we’ve done to get there so I think that we’re prepared to face any opponent.”

Scott-Arruda is one of five returners from the 2008 silver medal winning squad. Heading into London, they’ll have seven first-time Olympians. As a five-time Olympian, Scott-Arruda’s experience will be key but it won’t be the only reason she makes the trip to London.

“She’s here to play volleyball,” McCutcheon said. “The other stuff is gravy.”