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SPORTS EXTRA: SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

Indoor Volleyball

After Having Their Medal Hopes Spiked in Atlanta, U.S. Men, Women Will Try to Right the Ship Down Under

September 10, 2000|MIKE BRESNAHAN

WOMEN

* OVERVIEW--It took a lot of cajoling to get Danielle Scott back in the fold, but who could blame her?

The U.S. women's volleyball team was a mess at the 1996 Olympics, a collection of veterans who didn't come close to matching predictions of a successful run in front of a home crowd.

Bronze medal? Hardly.

Gold? Please.

The U.S. finished seventh, one spot away from matching its worst-ever Olympic showing.

When it was over, it was hardly surprising that Scott, a 6-foot-2 middle blocker and an Olympic rookie in Atlanta, dragged her feet at rejoining the U.S. team.

She embarked instead on a pro career that included stints in Italy and, more recently, Brazil.

She is playing in Sydney only because of a creative offer by U.S. Coach Mick Haley, who was hired in 1997 and knew he needed Scott on the national team.

Continue playing pro ball in Brazil, he said. But play with the U.S. for all major tournaments.

Scott agreed. Haley had himself a deal. And a player.

The U.S. arrives in Sydney as the No. 10-ranked team and, with the exception of Scott and Tara Cross-Battle, is teeming with youth.

The most extreme example is Logan Tom, a 19-year-old outside hitter who left Stanford after her freshman year to join the U.S. team last year. Another young gun is former Stanford star Kerri Walsh, a 22-year-old opposite hitter.

Scott, the second-oldest player at 27, doesn't mind.

"A lot of people have counted out the U.S because we have so many young players," she said. "But it's a positive. There's a lot of desire. They want to prove themselves. It's not like they can say, 'I've been there, done that.' "

* OTHERS TO WATCH--Cuba. The team is as strong, if not stronger, than the 1996 gold-medal squad.

Russia. A remarkable run of never finishing worse than second in the Olympics ended with a fourth place in 1996. Like the U.S., looking for a return to medal status.

* BEST STORY--The rule changes since 1996. To make the sport more TV-friendly, games are played to 25 and are rally-scored (a point on every play). A fifth game, if needed, goes to 15. Also, a serve that touches the net is now live, even if it barely trickles over for an ace.

* SOUTHLAND ATHLETES ON U.S. TEAM--Heather Brown, 21, Yorba Linda; Danielle Scott, 27, Long Beach State; Sarah Noriega, 24, Loyola Marymount; Tara Cross-Battle, 32, Long Beach State; Benishe Dillard, 23, Long Beach State.

* KEY DATES--Sept. 26 and 28, quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. Sept. 30, bronze- and gold-medal matches.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Fast Fact

* U.S. medal chances take a dive every other Olympics. The U.S. won a silver in 1984 and a bronze in 1992, but posted lackluster finishes in 1988 and 1996.

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