Or is that damn Brazil?
Either way, just consider what the host country for the Olympics has done to USA volleyball the past couple of weeks.
In the FIVB Grand Prix championship match July 10 in Bangkok, Thailand, the U.S. women lost to Brazil.
In the FIVB World League in Krakow, Poland, the U.S. men lost to Brazil in pool play on Friday and were eliminated from the tournament.
In the most recent international FIVB beach tournament, in Gstaad, Switzerland, the U.S. pair of Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser lost to Brazilians Pedro Solberg and Evandro (you know how those Brazilians go by one name) in two sets.
And on the women’s side of that tournament, the USA’s April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings lost to Brazilians Talita Antunes and Larissa (just Larissa) in two in a defeat that took just 33 minutes.
As an inquiring sportswriter might ask, if you can’t beat ‘em on a neutral site, how you gonna beat ‘em in Rio?
Both the women’s and men’s indoor defeats were in five, although in the case of the men, it stung even more, since they were up 2-0 in sets, lost the third 28-26, and were ahead 12-10 in the fifth before losing the last five points. What’s more, they knew going into the match they had to win in either three or four to advance to the semifinals, so the fifth set was a moot point for the USA.
And here’s the dagger: Brazil played mostly its second team.
What in the name of the Girl from Ipanema is a going on here?
“ …we just didn’t execute. We truly have not executed at a level we would wish for most of the summer,” USA head coach John Speraw said.
“We’re going to have to take this break before the Olympic Games and evaluate, regroup and train as hard as we can to come back and play at a level we have been at the last two months.”
The U.S. has the talent to not only win but win it all. The games start in three weeks, so the switch better flip real soon.
Or else we’ll be saying more than damn about Brazil when the Games are finished.
The women? I like their chances. But China is tough and Brazil will be even tougher at home.
I’d be lying if could prognosticate even a little about the beach, but I know that in the FIVB men’s rankings Brazil is first and third and the USA second and fourth. And among the women Brazil is first, the U.S. second, Germany third and the Netherlands fourth. To me, looking at the names, it means it’s gonna be a tough tournament. But after all, it is the Olympics.
I know this much. Ross/Walsh Jennings can win it all. Brooke Sweat and Lauren Fendrick are a long shot. Lucena/Dalhausser can win it all and Casey Patterson and Jake Gibb can be in the mix.
Here are some thoughts and notes about the respective USA men’s and women’s rosters.
Just one player on the 12-women USA team played her volleyball at a school not in one of the power-five conferences. Who? Answer below.
Nebraska, formerly of the Big 12 but now of the Big Ten, has three on the team in Kayla Banworth, Jordan Larson and Kelsey Robinson.
Penn State, also of the Big Ten, has Christa Dietzen and Alisha Glass.
Six other power-five schools are represented in Courtney Thompson of Washington, Rachael Adams of Texas, Carli Lloyd of Cal, Kelly Murphy of Florida, Foluke Akinradewo of Stanford and Karsta Lowe of UCLA.
The only one from a so-called smaller school? Kim Hill of Pepperdine.
It’s also interesting that while three are from college in California, only Lloyd and Lowe are from California, while Murphy and Robinson are from Illinois, Glass from Michigan, Adams from Ohio, Larson from Nebraska and Banworth from Iowa. Go America’s Heartland.
For the men, one-fourth of the roster is from Hawai’i, largely because of the Shojis. Both Kawika and Erik played at Stanford and are joined by USC product Micah Christenson. All three are from Honolulu.
Sure there are Californians in Taylor Sander of BYU and Huntington Beach, and David Lee of Long Beach State and Alpine, and David Smith of UC Irvine and Saugus.
But Reid Priddy of Loyola Marymount is from Richmond, Va. And Matt Anderson of Penn State is from West Seneca, N.Y.
For that matter, one-fourth of the team is from Penn State, because Anderson is joined by fellow Nittany Lions Max Holt of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Aaron Russell of Ellicot City, Md.
The men’s roster is also Heartland strong, with Thomas Jaeschke of Loyola and Wheaton, Ill., and Murphy Troy of USC and St. Louis, Mo.
The geography part doesn’t mean much per se, but it is fun to connect the dots and see what a wide mix of players make up the respective USA teams.