The USA women took care of business on Friday, winning in four to stay atop Pool B and keep Italy winless. With one more match left in pool play, Sunday afternoon against China, the Americans stand a great chance of winning the pool.
The USA, Serbia, The Netherlands and China have all qualified from Pool B.
The American men hope to follow suit after their big upset Thursday night of the home team. The USA, still playing for its Olympic life, takes on dangerous France in a key Pool A men’s match.
Also on tap Saturday for the men:
Iran vs. Egypt
Argentina vs. Cuba
Poland vs. Russia
Canada vs. Mexico
Brazil vs. Italy
As they go into the fourth round, Italy is atop Pool A at 3-0, France and Brazil are 2-1, Canada and USA are 1-2 and Mexico is 0-3.
In Pool B, Poland leads at 3-0, Russia and Argentina are 2-1, and Iran and Egypt are 1-2. Cuba is 0-3.
USA 3, Italy 1
The top-ranked team in the world looked great for two sets, struggled in the third and for the early part of the fourth, before coming away with a 25-22, 25-22, 23-25, 25-20 victory.
Foluke Akinradewo and Kimberly Hill led a balanced USA attack with 14 and 13 points, respectively, while Karsta Lowe added 12 points and Rachael Adams 10. Akinradewo had 13 kills in 22 swings and a block. Kim Hill had 12 kills on 32 swings, but struggled and was replaced at outside hitter by Kelsey Robinson, who had eight kills on 17 attacks and a block.
“I take a lot of pride in being able to be a spark plug and energy maker,” Robinson said. “Me and Karsta and everyone in the box, we all have the built up energy and ready to go.
“Typically I just think if I can pass well and be in system, that is my job – maybe to turn a couple balls on defense. Alisha was getting me getting me good one-on-ones and made it easy to score.”
The USA had 66 kills to Italy’s 44, but were outblocked 14-5.
You have to appreciate the honesty from Italy’s Martina Guiggi.
“We knew that we didn’t have a chance before we started the match, but we just wanted to try to finish well as we can,” Guiggi said. “The USA are a very good team and we had to focus 100 percent against them. We are happy that at least we won a set.”
USA coach Karch Kiraly was happy that nearly his entire roster contributed in the match. Courtney Thompson, who hasn’t played much, was serving at the end of the match.
“We have a team that has a lot of people who have played a lot over the last two, three seasons. We have a great deal of trust in them to come in,” Kiraly said.
“Kelsey was really good off the bench, Karsta was good off the bench. One of Courtney’s job is to be ready to come in and serve some tough serves off the bench with the ace and the near ace. And once we took Kim out, she was ready to be a serving sub and she came in and served an ace.
:We needed every one of those points in the fourth set. Carli made some amazing plays when it was her chance. And Christa Dietzen, who did not get in the game but serves as our captain, provides some really valuable leadership during the timeouts and generally throughout the match. Even when people do not get in the match, they make an impact.”
Robinson, Alisha Glass and Rachael Adams all played on the Italian club team Conegliano this past winter that won the Italian Serie A1 championship that included three members of the Italian Olympic Team.
“I know them all pretty well,” Robinson said. “It is fun to play people you know, familiar faces.”
Serbia 3, China 0
Serbian left-handed opposite Tijana Boskovic had a field day as she led her team to a 25-19, 25-19, 25-22 win.
“We are playing better and better, according to our plan, and this is the best we have played in the tournament,” Serbian coach Zoran Terzic said. “Now we have to think about the quarterfinals and I hope we don’t have to play against the first-place team of the other pool.”
Boskovic topped all scorers with 23 points. Brankica Mihajlovic added 19.
China was led by Zhu Ting, who 14 points.
“The Serbian team played very good, and they blocked and served very well,” China coach Lang Ping said. “In the last set we had the opportunity to win when they gave us a chance, but we made too many errors. It happens when you are dealing with young players.”
Netherlands 3, Puerto Rico 0
The Netherlands kept pace in the pool and improved to 3-1 with a 25-14, 25-22, 25-16 victory over winless Puerto Rico.
Lonneke Sloetjes led the Dutch with with 21 points, including a block and three aces, while Robin De Kruijf had four blocks and finished with 12 points.
Karina Ocasio led Puerto Ricio with 12 points and former Minnesota star Daly Santana had 10.
Russia 3, Japan 0
Russia cruised to the victory 25-14, 30-28, 25-18 to go 4-0 and stay atop the pool.
This leaves Japan having to play it out with Argentina on Sunday for the last available spot in the quarterfinals. From Pool A, Russia (together with Brazil and Korea) are already assured a spot in the top eight.
Brazil 3, Korea 0
In the last match of the day, Brazil moved ahead of Russia in the pool standings, because while both are 4-0, Russia is 12-1 in sets, while Brazil held off Korea 25-17, 25-13, 27-25 to go 12-0.
And that last set was really something. The home team, which earlier had a seemingly comfortable lead, was down 23-22.
Argentina 3, Cameroon 2
The two winless teams coming in gave a tremendous effort and the fifth set was really fun. It ended with Lucia Fresco’s walk-off floating ace 19-25, 25-19, 26-28, 25-21, 15-13.
“It is a great feeling, a huge thrill to close the match that way,” said Fresco, whose team improved to 1-3. “I would say it is the biggest ace of my life, something I will never forget. It’s my Olympic ace to give Argentina its first victory. All of us had watered eyes at the end as we were able to overcome so hard times. Now we are optimistic for the match against Japan.”
Middle blockers Emilce Sosa and Florencia Busquets led Argentina with 21 and 18 points, respectively, while Fresco, who only played the last two sets, had 11 and Tanya Acosta 10.
“We had good reception at the key moments and the attack with us, the middle blockers, was effective,” Sosa said. “We came with a positive mind to win this match as I am sure was also the case of Cameroon. The most important thing is that we achieved the win. Cameroon plays a power game, which is different to the fast rhythm of Japan, our next opponent.
“We are going to celebrate for a moment an start thinking about the next match against the Japanese.”
Cameroon’s Christelle Tchoudjang led with 25 points, while Letitia Moma had 22.
Later Friday: Brazil vs. Korea