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Undertow

2019 USA Women's Volleyball Olympic Qualifier

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I put this under Husker Volleyball, mods / admins please feel free to move if necessary.

 

The roster has been set for the US Women's Volleyball team for the 2020 Olympic Qualifier later this week. It has a definite Nebraska flavor, but is missing one ingredient:

 

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Volleyball/Features/2019/July/26/US-Women-Set-Roster-for-Olympic-Qualifier

 

Ms. Foecke did NOT make the roster this time around and instead, Kim Hill joins the list of outsides that includes Larson, Robinson, and Bartsch-Hackley. The remainder of the team is the same as the VNL roster for the final round including Courtney and Lake at libero.

 

Hill has Olympic experience and has starred in international competition before. At the 2014 FIVB World Championships she was selected as the MVP,  was a member of the 2016 Olympic Team that got the Bronze, and was the leading scorer in the 2018 VNL title game against Turkey. She didn't play a set in the 2019 VNL and originally I thought she was ousted when the 25 player roster was announced. That turned out to be incorrect as Ms. Hill did make the VNL roster, she just didn't travel or play at any of the sites. Apparently that was her decision after a long professional season in Europe.

 

The teams competing against the US in the qualifier are Argentina, Bulgaria, and Kazakhstan. The US is a combined 41-1 against the three opponents. The fun starts Friday August 2nd and is a round robin affair with each team playing 3 matches over 3 days. Team USA WILL BE televised via the Olympic Network on Friday, NBC Sports on Saturday, and NBC proper on Sunday.

 

Final thought. The only players on this roster that were on the 2016 Olympic Team are Hill, Larson, and Robinson. Seems like a ton of turnover, but it is also indicative of the level and depth of talent coming in to Women's USA Volleyball.

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1 hour ago, Undertow said:

Final thought. The only players on this roster that were on the 2016 Olympic Team are Hill, Larson, and Robinson. Seems like a ton of turnover, but it is also indicative of the level and depth of talent coming in to Women's USA Volleyball.

 

I think that's a huge factor in why Hill is on the team and not Foecke. I haven't heard yet where she's going to sign professionally, but last I heard she'd hired an agent and was looking. She would benefit from a couple of years of pro ball, maybe another VNL stint, and then set her sites on the Olympic squad. She's got all the talent in the world. Now she just needs experience at the next level.

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I thought I saw where Foecke had signed professionally, but couldn't remember the article. I finally stumbled on it again at the Flo Volleyball site. It isn't the top article, it is the 3rd article down that talks about where members of the VNL 25 player roster were going in the upcoming professional season:

 

https://www.flovolleyball.tv/articles/6486068-a-closer-look-at-the-final-vnl-roster-for-the-usa-women

 

Foecke is going to Italy, Larson is going to China after playing in Turkey for the last 5 seasons, and Robinson is staying in Turkey, but signing with a different team. There were a few unsigned, most notably Tori Dixon and Annie Drews.

Foecke will need to make a decision by the fall of 2020 whether to enter vet school at Iowa State or to continue a professional volleyball career. She was accepted at Iowa State and they even worked with her to keep her spot into vet school open for a year. My understanding it is pretty difficult to get into vet school, but I would think that is a "life choice" that could be delayed.

 

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After starting out a little shaky (maybe a slight case of the yips) the US swept past an overmatched Kazakhstan team 25-17, 25-10, and 25-10.

 

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Volleyball/Features/2019/August/02/Robinson-Leads-US-Women-Past-Kazakhstan

 

Kelsey Robinson did Husker Nation proud and led Team USA with 11 kills on 16 attempts and 13 total points. Jordon Larson did not play.

 

Some thoughts on the match. For one match (and it's important to remember it is just one match), against an inferior opponent, Megan Courtney was a dumpster fire. From the first serve in which they aced her, Kazakhstan was targeting the US libero, and was somewhat successful. At least 3 of their 4 aces in the match were aimed at Courtney and it may have been all 4, I can't remember for certain. The announcers were commenting how "unusual" it was to target the opposing libero in the service game. The color commentator made a remark in the middle of the match of how the libero position was a weakness for the US and "why can't they find a legitimate libero who plays the position when they can select from over 300 collegiate programs?" referring to the fact that Courtney is a converted outside and will return to the outside when she resumes her professional career. Kiraly finally subbed her with Mary Lake midway through the third set, unfortunately Ms. Lake was also unimpressive in her short stint.

Robinson and Bartsch-Hackley played the entire match on the outside. KRob did an excellent job on the attack as evidenced by her team leading kills, but it is her all-around play that is particularly impressive. As one example, when Courtney was having "issues" receiving, Kiraly had KRob help cover for Courtney when KRob rotated to the back row. Bartsch-Hackley had solid stats, but did not have a particularly outstanding game. A very quiet 7 kills on 17 attacks and the Kazakhstan block, as weak as it was, has some success against her. I was a little surprised that Kim Hill did not see playing time in the third set when the substitutes started coming in. Hill did not play in the VNL and has not played since her professional season ended in May.

Drews and Thompson excelled at the opposite position. Drews played the first two sets and Thompson played the third. Drews hits the ball so damn hard it routinely will clock above 90 km/hr. And Thompson is just a freak athlete that can leap out of the gym. Thompson has some holes defensively (i.e. when and where to cover on a tipped ball), but that is just inexperience and will come with more playing time. This position is turning out to be a strength for Team USA.

The setter position is also a strength and Carlini had an efficient game. Poulter played in the third set and there was no drop off. Those two are so good (plus you have Micha Hanc$%k and Seliger-Swenson in the wings) that Carli Lake left USA Volleyball.

Ogbogu did NOT start in the middle, instead it was Dixon and Washington. Somewhat of an upset since the only match Ogbogu didn't start in the VNL (as least that I can remember) is the final match in the preliminary round against Thailand. The middle was solid, but not spectacular. Rettke played a portion of the third set and looked disjointed.....probably a bit of nerves. The middles didn't get a lot of offensive opportunities, which against Kazakhstan doesn't matter. But against better opponents, more balance will be needed.

Bulgaria is next. The Bulgarians beat Argentina in 4 sets after dropping the first set in a deuce. Bulgaria finished last in the VNL in 2019 and is relegated to the Challengers Cup in 2020. Team USA still has to win the matches, but this is shaping up to be a very favorable draw in order to qualify for Tokyo.

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So much for the so called "favorable draw." While the US did win, they had to punch, kick, scratch, and claw their way to victory with a 5 set win over Bulgaria 21-25, 25-18, 21-25, 25-20, and 15-10. Some details:

 

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Volleyball/Features/2019/August/03/US-Women-1-Step-Closer-to-Olympic-Berth

 

Kiraly swapped the outsides out, starting Kim Hill and Larson, and keeping the remainder of the starters the same. After a first set loss, Thompson was put in at opposite for Drews. And when the US went down 2 sets to 1, Robinson replaced Hill.

The 5 setter wasn't a case of the US playing down to the competition, Bulgaria played well above their ranking. In taking the first set, I believe that Bulgaria was error free. In fact, both teams minimized the errors in the extended match with the US committing just 11 and Bulgaria 13. As well as Bulgaria played, it was disturbing from a USA perspective to see a 5'11" outside jack up nearly 20 kills. And Paskova got the majority of those by pounding it through, over, and around the block. There wasn't many points won by tooling the block that you might expect from a smaller player. The US didn't have an answer for her until Robinson blocked her twice in the 5th set.

Hill had a strong start and led the US in kills after 2 sets. She cooled off in the 3rd as Thompson started to heat up and was getting the majority of the sets. Larson was consistent and steady throughout and ended up with the most points on the US team. Robinson did exactly what Kiraly wanted her to do, and provided a spark that, in essence, turned the match around. There was a point in the 5th set tied at 9 where Robinson had a sequence of plays that resulted in two kills and a block to give the US some breathing room at 13-9.

For Husker fan, it is interesting to note that when Kiraly needs the momentum to change in a match, he turns to Robinson (this match down 2-1) and Larson (VNL championship game down 2-0).

Drews didn't have a strong first set, but that was largely because Hill was getting most of the attempts. I thought Kiraly subbed her out too quickly. When Thompson came in the 2nd set, she also didn't impact the match immediately as Hill and Larson continued to get most of the action. However from the 3 set on, Thompson was impressive with her athletic display and fearless nature. She ended up tied with Larson for the most kills even while playing one less set.

Carlini had a good night at setter and really set herself apart with her defensive skills. There were several times she was diving on the floor and extending rallies. And in a crucial stretch in the 2nd set, she was involved in 3 blocks that turned the momentum to the US. That's the advantage of having a 6'2" setter. 

To say Megan Courtney had an  uneven performance at libero would be generous.....and polite. She did a much better job receiving this match and she had some outstanding covers. But her bump sets were horrific, often times leaving the attackers no room (and no choice) but to tip the ball over. Contrast that to Larson having to set a handful of times and dropping it on the proverbial dime so that the attacker could "swing away." Larson does so many of the little things with precision. The consummate pro.

The middles did a decent job  defensive but were absent again on the offensive side. Washington did get two kills back to back in the 5th, but that nearly doubled her output for the match. Ogbogu did not see the court again. Not sure what is going on with her.

A comment on the coverage on the Olympic Channel. You would think that two required timeouts per set (after the first team to 8 and to 16 points) would be enough to get the necessary commercials ran. But not on the Olympic Channel. Coming back after commercial, you would find that 2 to 3 points were missed in the TV coverage. Very odd and annoying.

One more win against Argentina and the ticket is punched to Tokyo. Argentina lost to Bulgaria in 4 but beat Kazakhstan in 4. Hopefully the US will dispatch Argentina with a little more breathing room than the Bulgarian match.

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As noted in the previous post, The US swept Argentina 25-22, 25-17, and 25-13 to punch their ticket to the 2020 Olympics. See the article for more detail and for an unofficial box score:

 

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Volleyball/Features/2019/August/04/Olympics-Bound-US-Women-Claim-Ticket-to-Tokyo

 

Kiraly went with the same line up that finished against Bulgaria including Larson and Robinson on the outside. I started watching the match, but unfortunately found out that Hulu still hasn't figured out how to buffer live sporting events. It literally locked up after a Thompson kill in the first set that put the US ahead 12 to 11. Even after multiple resets, uninstalls and installs, on both Roku and FireStick, the NBC channel would lock up at the same exact place.

So a word of caution for those of you who, like me, don't watch a lot of TV, but subscribe to a streaming service to watch the fall sports. Make sure that if you subscribe to Hulu, pick out a live sporting event during the trial period to see if you have "issues." This is the 2nd time I'll cancel out of Hulu because they can't get live sports right. I was hoping that after two years they would finally figure it out. My internet connection is plenty fast enough (65 - 70 mps) and I don't have that problem with Playstation Vue or YouTube TV. I would try Sling TV but they don't have BTN which, obviously, is a deal breaker.

Streaming issues aside, just looking at the box score, it appears that the pins again had most of the attacks with the middles once again MIA offensively, although not to the degree of the first two matches of the tournament. Thompson had another solid outing at opposite, even though she started the match with two hitting errors and anther attack getting stuffed in the first three attempts in the match.

And under the "I may be slow, but I'm not very bright" category, I finally figured out that the reason Ogbugo wasn't starting at the middle was she didn't make the trip even though she was on the roster initially. I was looking at the team photo following the win over Bulgaria and saw she wasn't in it. Then I looked at the box score and she wasn't even listed. I know she was on the roster for the tournament so she must have been a late scratch. Of course, they didn't mention anything about her missing in the first two telecasts nor can I find out any info as to why she wasn't there.

Anyway, congrats to team USA and, of course, in particular to Robinson and Larson who both played key roles in securing the qualification berth.

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USA Women's team claims silver at at the FIVB World Cup.

 

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Volleyball/Features/2019/September/29/US-Women-Claim-World-Cup-Silver-with-10-1-Record

 

Much like other World Cups, this is a once every 4 years event. Unlike other World Cups, the women's volleyball is a round robin affair with the top 12 ranked teams in the World. Every team plays every other team and the winner is the one with the best record / points total  / points/set winning percentage. China was unbeaten, and the US came in at 10-1 to claim 2nd.

Couple of observations. Poulter is now the number one setter on this team. Pretty amazing considering the competition. Beating out Carlini is impressive considering she (Carlini) is a legend in her own right and was largely responsible for Carli Lake, who set team USA to bronze in the last Olympics,  to resign from team USA. Kiraly is still experimenting but I think he realizes that the TEAM plays much better with Larson and Robinson on the outside, even though Hill and Bartsch-Hackley may be more physically imposing. He started Larson and Robinson on the outside in 7 of the 11 matches and often in the tougher matches. Additionally, I think Kiraly is starting to crack on his insistence that Courtney is his libero. Against Russia, in a match that was crucial in securing the silver, Kirachy started Wong-Orantes (3 Nebraskans starting --- Robinson, Larson, Wong-Orantes).

Kelsey Robinson was selected as outstanding outside and Andrea Drews was selected outstanding opposite. Drews continues to rack up the accolades, but Kiraly seems to have a short hook for her, especially when Thompson is available.

14 were on the World Cup roster, only 12 are allowed on the Olympic squad. My guess is you go down one middle and only carry one libero. The 3 middles are probably Ogdobu, Washington, and Akinradewo (coming back from a pregnancy). The four outsides are Robinson, Larson, Bartsch-Hackley, and either Hill or Foecke. The setters are Poulter and Carlini. The outsides are Drews and Thompson. The libero is an unknown. Courtney has been marginal at best. Wong-Orantes may not be that far removed from making the team. Regardless of who makes it, Robinson becomes the emergency libero.

That group has more than a puncher's chance at a gold in 2020. Larson has a silver (2012) and a bronze (2016). I hope she gets her gold.

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1 hour ago, BigRedBuster said:

 

 

 

Funny thing about that is Larson played on the same team as Sarah Pavan, who I thought was the single greatest individual talent I'd ever seen. But she kinda peaked and then went down - still very good, but not playing at that elite level. But Larson has just kept going at the same level her whole career.

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