US women’s vball team tries for 1st Olympic gold
Destinee Hooker is the fire of the U.S. volleyball team. Lindsey
Berg is its heart.
Together the two women will try to win the United States’ first
gold medal in the sport when the team faces Brazil in Saturday’s
final match at the London Games.
Berg, the team’s captain, is a three-time Olympian who has been
here before: The U.S. team made it to the gold medal match at the
Beijing Games, but fell 3-1 to the Brazilians.
That team didn’t have Hooker, an Olympic rookie who was a
last-minute cut from the team that went to China.
Hooker’s been electric at the London Games, where she’s second
among all players in scoring with 147 points, 123 of them on
As setter, Berg is the one who often feeds the lanky wing spiker
for the kill.
”She’s incredible,” Berg says. ”She’s playing like a vet
right now and it’s very easy to play with her. And I’m lucky that’s
who I have to set up because she makes my balls look good.”
Hugh McCutcheon, who guided the U.S. men’s team on an undefeated
run to the gold medal in Beijing, moved over to the women’s side
and made Hooker a key component of his offense.
Hooker dissolved into tears when talking about the faith
McCutcheon put in her.
”Now I’m at this level that I never thought I’d be, and I have
so many little girls who look up to me,” Hooker said. ”It’s truly
The U.S. women are undefeated in London and advanced to the gold
medal rematch against Brazil with a straight-set victory over South
Korea that was fueled by Berg’s emotional return after missing a
game with a left Achilles strain.
Berg hurt her leg in the Americans’ final preliminary-round
match against Turkey on Sunday. The United States was tightlipped
about the extent of her injury and when she might return because
that could have given opponents an advantage.
Berg says she’s officially day-to-day.
”But I’m sure the adrenaline for the gold-medal match will kick
in and I’ll feel perfect,” she said.
It will be the U.S. team’s third appearance in the Olympic
final. The United States won the silver medal in the 1984 Los
Angeles Games before earning another in Beijing. The team won
bronze in Barcelona in 1992.
Brazil, which won its first Olympic gold in the sport in
Beijing, earned its spot in the London final with a straight-set
victory over Japan on Thursday night.
The United States and Brazil have split eight matches since
volleyball joined the Olympics in 1964.
The Brazilians went undefeated in Beijing before defeating the
surprising U.S. team 3-1 in the final.
The two teams met again in London in the preliminary round, with
the United States turning the tables for a 3-1 victory. Hooker had
23 points in the win.
”Both teams are very different teams and very strong teams.
Brazil’s very emotional, so sometimes that’s a good thing for them
and sometimes a bad thing for them,” Berg said. ”Both teams are
going to be incredible. It’s the gold-medal match.”
Late last year, Brazil surrendered its four-year hold on the No.
1 ranking to the United States. Brazil is ranked No. 2 by the
sport’s international governing body.
”It’s another final now. Previous Olympic Games we were the
favorite and now the United States is the favorite,” Brazil’s
Sheilla Castro said. ”Not sure it will be more difficult or not,
they are always difficult.”
South Korea and Japan will play in Saturday’s bronze medal
match. Japan hasn’t won a medal in the sport since it captured the
bronze in 1984.
South Korea’s best finish in the Olympics was the bronze in the
1976 Montreal Games.