From the start, it looked as if the United States and the Soviet Union, the best men's volleyball teams in the world, were going for another of their seemingly patented, endurance-type matches. Forty minutes for the first game, which included the Americans missing four opportunities to win at 14-11 and five at 14-12, looked quite familiar.
Then, however, the United States speeded things up, maybe out of consideration for their guests.
"It was nice to get out of here fast," American hitter Karch Kiraly said. "It gives the Russians a chance to catch their 2:30 a.m. flight to Kansas City."
A minor consolation for the Soviets, perhaps, but it was about all they were going to get Wednesday night at the Forum as they concluded an eight-city U.S. tour by being swept in three games, 15-12, 15-7, 15-9, before a crowd of 12,075.
The next stop for both teams is the World Championships Sept. 21-Oct. 6 in France. The Soviets will have plenty of time to consider that--and the disappointing play in the first Southern California appearance since 1977--on the Los Angeles-Kansas City-Detroit-Montreal-Moscow journey that will take them home.
"I can't be happy tonight because the team looked very tired," Soviet Coach Gennadij Parchin said through an interpreter, noting the distance and time of the tour that began Aug. 15. "I can very well understand the psychological and moral state of the team.
"These games basically are the preliminary games before the World Championships. They help us see our weaknesses. . . . We will try to get more from a good loss than from a bad victory. We don't have any panic."
The win gave the United States a 3-2 advantage in this series (the teams did not meet in every city) and a 14-5 lead overall in the last 19 times the teams have met. Wednesday night, after the marathon first game, the Americans made their move at the start of the second as a 4-0 cushion became 8-3 and then 11-4.
The Soviets, unable to hold serve for any length of time, came back to make it 11-7 before Pat Powers got a side out for the United States and then went back to serving. From there, the Americans scored four straight points--a Dusty Dvorak stuff being the final touch--to win.
"That helped us a lot," Kiraly said of the quick start. "We're a notoriously slow-starting team and a fast-finishing team, but it wasn't that way then. Rarely do we do that against a team, no matter how good or how bad they are."
The third game was much closer, and the Soviet Union, the most dominant team in the world from the mid-1970s to mid-'80s and now No. 2 behind the Americans, even led, 4-2. It was then up to the Americans, a team consisting entirely of players from Santa Barbara to San Diego, to come back in front of the home crowd.
They did just that, tying the score at 4-4 and 6-6 before pulling ahead at 7-6. After that, they were never caught.
"It was pretty helpless as the match went on," Kiraly said. "They (the Soviets) kept waiting for us to make mistakes, and we didn't."