US women’s volleyball hands China 2nd straight loss

Tuesday, July 27, 2021
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United States’ Jordan Thompson, right, hits the ball during the women’s volleyball preliminary round pool B match between China and United States at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. AP PHOTO

TOKYO (AP) — The expected Olympic showdown between the top two women’s volleyball teams in the world turned out to be a one-sided affair.

The U.S. women swept defending gold medalist China 29-27, 25-22, 25-21 on Tuesday in a pool-play match that left the Americans at the top of Pool B and the Chinese seeking to win their first set of the tournament after two straight sweeps to open the Games.

“When we play them, it’s always a great competition,” U.S. captain Jordan Larson said. “But ultimately, I thought we controlled what we could on our side of the net. I think it put them in a lot of trouble. Really proud of our team for imposing ourselves on them. But we know that the history of China and how they were in Rio, you just never know what could come.”

China was also swept by Turkey in the opener but showed five years ago in Rio de Janeiro how little the pool-play matches can mean after losing three of five of them before rallying to win gold.

That’s similar to what happened in London in 2012 when Brazil finished fourth in its pool before winning gold, as U.S. coach Karch Kiraly was quick to point out.

“It’s not unusual for a team to struggle in preliminary and then catch fire with a key win in the quarterfinals,” he said. “I wouldn’t count China out at all right now. They don’t want to be down 2-0, but that doesn’t mean they’re not capable of doing major damage in this tournament.”

The biggest question for China now is the health of star Zhu Ting. She was subbed out twice in the opening match because of a right wrist injury, the only time Kiraly said he could ever remember the MVP in Rio being a “non-factor” in a match.

She played the entire match on Tuesday with tape on her wrist and led China with 18 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome an American attack led by first-time Olympian Jordan Thompson.

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