Brazil’s women’s volleyball team, which beat USA 3–1 for the gold in Beijing when Brazil was the favorite, repeated its 3–1 win in 2012 in London when the top-ranked U.S. team was favored to win.
This is the U.S. women’s team’s tenth attempt without success.
The U.S. had steamrolled its opponents through the preliminaries and the early medal rounds, while Brazil had struggled.
Added to this, USA had beaten Brazil four times since their meeting in Beijing. Everyone, except possibly the Brazilian team, expected USA to win.
Each set was lopsided; the first was All USA, 25–11; the rest were nightmares for the U.S. team, 25–17, 25–20, 25–17.
Everyone expected the U.S. team to do well, but no one imagined the kind of devastation the U.S. women wreaked on Brazil in the first set. Led by the blocking of Foluke Akinradewo and the power-kills of Destinee Hooker, aided by nine Brazilian hitting errors, the U.S. ladies handed Brazil a 25–11 drubbing in the first set.
After the set break, a new Brazil emerged, and within the first few minutes of the second set, they forged a new, weaker U.S. side. Brazil, a team loaded with talent, stopped making errors and started hitting kills, while on defense, they played with blazing speed and amazing energy. It seemed no matter which American hit from what angle, there was a Brazilian arm or hand there to keep the ball in play.
If no one expected the first-set rout, none would ever have predicted that the U. S. women would never again be in the game.
Jaqui Carvalho hit 18 kills for Brazil, with Sheilla Castro hitting 15 and Fernanda Rodrigues adding 12. This offense, coupled with U.S. errors and the Brazilian’s amazing hustle on defense, sent the U.S. women into shock. They never found their stride after Brazil scored the first three points of the second set, and they never had even a point lead in the final three sets. Their best effort was a tie at 12 in the second, a set which they lost by eight.
The Brazilians defense held Destinee Hooker to 13 spikes and one point serving, ten less than she usually scored. Logan Tom added 11 and Akinradewo, 11.
The U.S didn’t make many more errors than Brazil overall; Brazil however, made more than half its errors in that disastrous first set, and only had a few per set afterwards. The U.S. made its errors in the final three sets and Brazil took full advantage.
Maybe the first set was too easy; maybe if the U.S. women had had to work harder for the win, they would have had the confidence to snap back when Brazil came back rejuvenated. Maybe the UI.S. women believed the hype, and relaxed after that first set win; maybe Brazil’s renewed focus made the U.S. women doubt the hype and themselves.
The U.S. ladies had shown some sloppiness in earlier matches, but they always won because of native talent. Maybe they had never really been gut-checked. In any case, they faced a serious challenge, and they faded.
Silver in the Olympics is nothing to be ashamed of. No matter what happened in the final, the U.S. team played a lot of excellent volleyball. But the U.S. team will have to wait for Rio in 2016 for another shot at winning gold—and Brazil will have the hometown advantage.
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