The United States team showed their qualifications for Olympic gold Monday in an early-round match of women’s volleyball at the 2012 London Olympic Games, where they scored a 3-1 victory over defending champion Brazil.
The team that won the gold at the 2008 Games in Beijing succumbed to their powerful rivals, and except for the third set in which they gave it their all, the Brazilians were constantly behind on the scoreboard.
The U.S. team was much faster, getting the jump on every play and always seeming to anticipate where the Brazilians, long a fixture in the finals of every tournament, would try to place the ball over the net.
Halfway through the match, the libero Fabi’s cries of desperation in returning the ball plus the grim expression of coach Ze Roberto Guimaraes were two signs of the trials besetting Brazil at Earls Court.
After being throughly beaten in the first two sets, the Brazilians started playing the emotional card, the only one they had left, celebrating each point as if it decided an Olympic final.
The strategem worked for awhile, and for the first time the U.S. players found themselves in trouble under pressure from Paula Pequeno as the South Americans took an 8-3 lead.
At a key moment with the score tied at 21-all, Fabiana scored an unstoppable spike to go ahead and then widened the gap with a block that allowed the Brazilians to win their only set by 25-22.