US women’s volleyball likely down 2 starters for quarters
TOKYO (AP) — The U.S. women’s volleyball team will likely be without two starters when the Americans face the Dominican Republic in the Olympic quarterfinals.
Setter Jordyn Poulter and opposite Jordan Thompson were limited at practice on Tuesday after rolling their right ankles during pool play and aren’t expected to be available in the quarterfinals. The Americans are still holding out hope that both could return later in the tournament if the U.S. wins on Wednesday.
Poulter got hurt when she landed on a teammate’s foot during a win over Italy on Monday that helped the U.S. clinch the top spot in Pool B. Thompson got hurt in similar fashion on Saturday in a loss to the Russians, sidelining one of the top scorers in the tournament.
The Americans have been able to overcome those injuries so far thanks to the play of backup setter Micah Hancock and opposite Annie Drews.
Drews led the team with 22 points in the five-set win over Italy in her first Olympics.
Coach Karch Kiraly said it was a difficult choice whether to start Drews or Thompson to begin the tournament, so he was not surprised about how little drop-off there has been.
“It wasn’t an obvious decision by any means, but one person we needed to be the starter and the other to be the backup,” Kiraly said. “They’ve both taken turns in that role over the years. Every time (Annie’s) come on the court in these recent matches, she’s given us an upgrade. We have massive trust in her as a starter or as a backup, and she’s crushed both rolls.”
The men played their quarterfinal match on Tuesday without the United States, which was knocked out following pool play for the first time since the 2000 Sydney Games.
The ROC built on its strong performance in winning Pool B in preliminary play by sweeping Canada 25-21, 30-28, 25-22. The Canadians put up a spirited effort in the second set, when they staved off five set points before finally succumbing on a spike by Maxim Mikhaylov.
“We were patient enough in the end of the second set when our game struggled a little bit because these games are made of moments,” Russian team coach Tuomas Sammelvuo said. “In difficult moments, just leave that moment and not to think far. We waited for our chance to close the set in a second set. That was very, very important.”
Now the Russians are back in the semifinals for the seventh straight Olympics. They won gold in London in 2012 but came up empty five years ago in Rio de Janeiro when they lost to eventual champion Brazil in the semifinals and to the U.S. in the bronze medal game.
The Russians will again meet Brazil, which swept host Japan in the second quarterfinal.
Brazil reached the gold medal game in the past four Olympics, winning as hosts in Rio in 2016 and at the 2004 Athens Games. The Brazilians lost the final to Russia in 2012 and the United States in 2008.
“We won sometimes. We lost a lot of times,” Brazilian captain Bruno said about the rivalry with the Russians. “We are two really traditional schools in volleyball. It will be for sure a great battle. It’s our first goal to be in the semifinal to keep our dream alive.”
Canada has failed to medal in five Olympic trips in men’s volleyball.
The other semifinal matchup will be determined later Tuesday following quarterfinal matches between Pool A winner Poland and France and another matchup between Italy and Argentina.
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