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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | VOLLEYBALL

Only Once Beaten, U.S. Learns a Lesson

September 24, 2000|MIKE KUPPER | TIMES ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

SYDNEY, Australia — The high-flying U.S. Olympic women's volleyball team found out today how the other half lives.

It wasn't the most important match they will play here and they didn't exactly have their heads handed to them, but the Americans' four-set loss to Brazil at Olympic Park certainly wasn't what they have become accustomed to in this tournament. The higher-flying Brazilians beat them convincingly, 25-17, 20-25, 25-15 and 25-15.

More ominous, except for the second game, in which they led all the way, the U.S. women spent most of their time playing catch-up. Even in that second game, they gave up five consecutive points at set point, when the really good teams never look back.

Fortunately for them, their immediate future had already been settled. They knew going in that they would be playing Tuesday in the quarterfinals. What they know now, though, is that if they play any of the other elite teams the way they played the Brazilians, their immediate future may be very short term.

"That sort of puts things back in perspective," said middle blocker Heather Bown of Yorba Linda. "We were riding pretty high. It's not a bad thing, because we know we can play with the best of them, but it tells us we really have to play our game. They didn't do anything we weren't expecting and we didn't do everything we usually do so they beat us."

Said outside hitter Logan Tom, "We couldn't put away some balls that we normally do but 4-1 [the U.S. record in pool play] is good. We can't be disappointed with that. Now we have to get ready to face someone else."

Exactly which team from Pool B that someone else will be was not known at press time. The U.S., second-place finisher in Pool A, will meet the third-place team from Pool B and Coach Mick Haley had been thinking that would be South Korea. But then Germany put itself back into the equation by beating Italy and everyone had to wait to see how South Korea did against pool-leading Russia in the last game of the day.

What is known is that neither Brazil nor the U.S. will have to play either Russia or Cuba in the quarterfinals.

"We both were trying to avoid that [throughout pool play] and we did that," Brazilian Coach Bernardo Rezende said.

Haley, of course, would have been happier with a victory over the Brazilians, and wasn't particularly pleased with his team's play, but . . .

"The third game, we made way too many errors, and got ourselves in a hole and that gave Brazil a very nice advantage and they put a lot of pressure on us," he said. "But we had very good pool play [results] and we're very excited to be in the top two--that was our goal--and hopefully now we can win on [Tuesday]."

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