Olympic volleyball Tuesday: Thompson sparkles for USA women; A-team, Dalcena win

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Jordan Thompson-Tokyo Olympics
China's X.Y. Yuan gets a couple of fingers on the Jordan Thompson spike/Ed Chan, VBshots.com
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As good as Jordan Thompson was in her Tokyo Olympics volleyball debut — and she was really good — that was nothing compared to what she did in her second match.

Thompson, the 6-foot-4 opposite from Edina, Minnesota, who starred at Cincinnati, had 28 of her team’s 58 kills Tuesday as the USA swept China in women’s volleyball. 

And that’s not all. Thompson had a team-high four blocks, two aces, four digs, and an assist in the USA’s 29-27, 25-22, 25-21 victory that left the Americans 2-0 in Pool B.

It was also a good day on the beach — albeit wet — for the USA as the A-Team, April Ross and Alix Klineman, and Dalcena, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, won their respective matches. 

UP NEXT

Wednesday marks the return to the sand of the new team of Jake Gibb and Tri Bourne, who swept their first match despite not getting to practice together after Bourne replaced COVID-positive Taylor Crabb. 

Gibb and Bourne, seeded 10th and coming off their victory over Italians Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi, play the first match Wednesday at Shiokaze Park when they play 22nd-seeded Switzerland’s Adrian Heidrich and Mirco Gerson. They are coming off a loss to Qatar’s Cherif Samba and Ahmed Tijan.

Also in Pool C, the third-seeded Qataris play the Swiss pair.

There are no other Americans in action in beach on Wednesday although in a women’s Pool D match, Latvians Tina Graudina, the USC NCAA beach champion, and Anastasija Kravcenoka try to bounce back from their three-set loss to Americans Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil when they play Brazil’s Ana Patricia Silva and Rebecca Cavalcanti.

Claes and Sponcil are back in action Thursday against the Kenyan pair of Gaudencia Makokha and Brackcides Khadambi. 

Also Thursday, Dalhausser and Lucena conclude pool play when they face Argentina’s Julian Azaad and Nicolas Capogrosso.

The men are back in action indoors at Ariake Arena on Wednesday. The USA (1-1), coming off its loss to ROC, plays Tunisia (0-2).

Jordyn Poulter-Tokyo Olympics
Jordyn Poulter jump sets high above the net for the USA as Foluke Akinradewo looks on/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

INDOORS

Thompson, the 24-year-old who hit .420, was spectacular from the get-go against China, which dropped to 0-2. In the first set alone, with the score tied at 25-25, she had a kill to give the USA the lead, another to tie it at 26, another to put her team ahead 27-26, and the swing that closed the first set at 29-27.

When the USA opened play with a sweep of Argentina on Sunday, Thompson had 18 kills with three errors in 23 attacks to hit .652 and also had two blocks and a team-high seven digs.

Against China, “We wanted to serve tough and stick with a solid block setup,” Thompson said. “We tried to have a short memory when we made mistakes or China made a great kill. Offensively, Jordyn consistently put us in great positions.”

That would be Poulter, the setter who turns 24 on Saturday, who had 51 assists, two blocks,  the USA’s other two aces, and four digs. 

The veteran outside hitters were big for the USA. Michelle Bartsch-Hackley had 15 kills and 12 digs, while Jordan Larson had 11 kills, a block, and eight digs.

Haleigh Washington had three kills and a block, Foluke Akinradewo had a kill and two blocks, and libero Justine Wong-Orantes had 16 digs. 

“We needed to serve with our usual ferocity. We got them in passing trouble and that makes it easier to defend,” USA coach Karch Kiraly said. “This was one of our best passing matches in a long time. 

“China served short and tried to disrupt things and our passers handled that. Despite great passing, we didn’t get many kills from our middle blockers but when we have a lack of scoring from them it’s great the other three hitters can pick it up.”

Also in Pool B on Tuesday, Italy (2-0) stayed tied with the USA atop the standings with a four-set victory over Turkey, and ROC (1-1) swept Argentina (0-2). In Pool A, Serbia (2-0) swept Japan, Brazil (2-0) escaped the Dominican Republic (0-2) in five, and Korea (1-1) swept Kenya (0-2).

USA assistant coach Erin Virtue was back on the bench. She had been in quarantine for close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

China, which opened with a loss to Turkey, got 16 kills from Zhu Ting, who hit .378. Li Yingying had 10 kills.

“We know the history of China and what happened in Rio when they started slow and won gold,” Larson said. “Anything can happen. At times today they were unstoppable. Who knows which China will show up here next match? China is a great team and I expect them to turn around.”

While China plays ROC (Russia), the USA gets Turkey in the last match Thursday.

Click here for the complete Tuesday women’s schedule and results.

The men resume play Wednesday. In addition to the USA-Tunisia match, also in Pool B Argentina plays France and Brazil plays ROC. In Pool A, Canada faces Iran, Poland plays Venezuela, and Japan plays Italy. 

Click here for the Wednesday men’s schedule.

April Ross-Tokyo Olympics
April Ross dives for the cut shot against Spain/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

BEACH

The weather became a factor on Tuesday as the predicted storm moved in. The temperatures dropped and it rained at times but it didn’t seem to bother the Americans.

Ross and Klineman beat Spain’s Liliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo 21-13, 21-16, to improve to 2-0 and assure them that they will advance out of pool play.

“They’ve given us a hard time in the past and so just to have our game plan go smoothly is awesome,” Kilineman said. “We came out with a lot of intensity, a lot of energy and we did things pretty well and we’re really happy with that.”

Much of the post-match interview questions had little to do with the match, however. Ross answered questions about her nails — “I had done regular full colours before … purple I think, and the red and blue and I wanted something more intricate this time, so like the stars (on my toes), like the flag, and red and white on my fingers. I’m really happy with it.” — and the arrival of AVP disc jockey DJ Roueche: “Oh, it’s huge. He knows exactly what music pumps us up and so when he plays that, it helps us warm up and get really fired up.”

They played, of course, in an empty venue at Shiokaze Park.

“We don’t have anybody in this beautiful stadium,” Spain’s Fernandez said. “That’s a big difference, no? Because I remember from London and from Rio, when we were having a great match and (have) great plays or coming back, the people was cheering for you or against you also. But you at least could feel the energy of the people. Here it depends more on you.”

Ross and Klineman are off until Friday when they play Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink of the Netherlands.

The Dutch lost to Chen Xue and Xinxin of China — whom Ross and Klineman beat — in the other Pool B match Tuesday.

No fans was no problem for Dalhausser and Lucena, as they squared their record at 1-1 with a 24-22, 19-21, 15-13 almost must win over Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Alvaro Filho.

“We were better than them by two points, I think it was only a two-point difference in the whole match,” Lucena said. “That’s a team that’s going to contend for a medal … So to get a win off them is special.”

“It was a great game, like a final,” Alison said. “There was very little difference in the points. We are great friends with the Americans. We both needed the victory, but they got it.”

The weather?

“We live in Florida, so a little rain, a little wind, is something we’re used to,” Dalhausser said. “It’s gusty, it’s tough to tell what’s the good side and bad side.”

In the other Pool D match Tuesday, Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands played Capogrosso and Azaad.

Dalhausser also talked about having been quarantined in a hotel room in Tokyo because of contact tracing:

“Not really being able to train against a team and me being quarantined, sitting in a hotel room for five days isn’t exactly ideal when you’re about to play the Olympics,” Dalhausser said.

“There’s only so much you could do in the room as a workout. I had a box of water bottles and put all my books on there and I was using that for a weight. You get a little creative.

“I’m very grateful to be part of Team USA, because the first three days, I was at a hotel that was not great, the food was not great. And then Team USA busted me out of there, and brought me to the Hilton. Now I’m in a good situation.

“The room was as big as this little square here, and there’s a grey wall right in front of the window. The worst part about it was not knowing when we’re going to be able to train.”

Click here for all of Tuesday’s beach results.

Click here for the complete 10-match Wednesday beach schedule.

Elsa Baquerizo-Tokyo Olympics
Elsa Baquerizo digs in front of Liliana Fernandez/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

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