Two weeks of Olympic volleyball awesomeness

posted by Jeff | Saturday, August 20, 2016, 8:59 PM | comments: 0

It's no secret that volleyball is the only sport I've really cared all that much about. In fact, I'm sure a fair amount of my Facebook friends that are female and from high school, or currently 20-something played for me or on "my" high school team. It's the only sport I was ever good at, and even then, not until I started coaching it. The sport is regionally a big deal, and unfortunately not at all here in Florida because high schools tend to be gigantic and spread out (as opposed to Ohio, where every 5-5 mile township or smaller municipality has its own school). The point is, I don't get to see a lot of volleyball.

But the Olympics is a chance to see lots of it, and I don't squander the opportunity. I'm still not a giant beach fan, though the whole Kerri Walsh Jennings story is certainly amazing and awesome, and she might be the greatest player of all time. She showed a lot of class when she and her partner, April Ross, lost in the semi-final. I'm not all that interested in the men, because honestly it's not as exciting to watch. Defense plays less of a role in their game.

This year, in Rio, NBC committed to streaming literally every event, so I didn't have to wait for the matches to show up on their normal TV schedule. This meant that some matches, I believe broadcast by the Olympics themselves, sometimes had no commentary at all, or really terrible commentary, but it was all there, and that's awesome. I did not miss a single match for the USA women, which is fantastic. As the favorites for the tournament, I wanted to see every last swing.

The first match I watched was in "our" Pool B, between the Netherlands and China. The Dutch were ranked something like 11th prior to the Olympics, so imagine my surprise when they wrestled away a win against China. There was something incredibly validating about their style of play, too, because they proved what I've always felt as a coach: Speed can beat power. The Chinese team was far stronger, but they weren't nearly as fast. You can get around powerful blockers and dig hard hits when you're fast.

The USA women won the pool, and the Netherlands only dropped their match to the USA. Pool B was definitely the stronger of the two (I thought), but when it came to the semi-finals, the USA lost to Serbia, and the Chinese (after shockingly beating Brazil) exacted revenge on the Dutch. My two favorites made so many unforced errors in their matches, and that made the difference. It was heartbreaking, but at least it meant I could be comfortable with either team winning the bronze (patriotism aside). The Netherlands should be extremely proud of their team, because no one expected them to go that far and they were amazing through most of the tournament. The Americans and their coach, the magnificent Karch Kiraly, walked away with bronze, and that's OK too.

The Serbia vs. China match is about to start, going for gold, and it should be a great match. I think it's going to go to Serbia. They have a lefty (Tijana Boskovic, the one with the braces and the dimples), who is one of the most consistent hitters and blockers I've ever seen, and she can pass all day, too. It's crazy how much of an impact she has on that team.

I'm thrilled to see so much good volleyball. I've watched as much as possible every games since college, and this has been the best tournament I've ever seen. It just sucks that I have to wait another four years, but thankful that the Internet made this possible.


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