|Phil Bush, FIVB Broadcaster|
Over the previous three decades in athletics, you'd be hard pressed to find someone with a greater level of expertise in volleyball production and promotion than Phil Bush. He will be entering his fourth year working for the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) as a broadcaster on the FIVB “Match of the Week.” He has also handled 17 seasons working for Fox SportsNet South, ESPNU, CSS and Sun Sports providing both play-by-play and color analysis on volleyball broadcasts. Through his MavRen Marketing & Productions company, Bush has worked in the production and promotion of volleyball events for over 25 years, including the promotion of the first ever pro beach volleyball tournaments outside of California. He will be writing a daily blog once the Olympics begin previewing the next day's matches for both the men and women.
The USA Women’s National Team is capping off a remarkable four-year run that has included three Grand Prix Championships (2010, 2011, 2012), a fourth place finish in the 2010 World Championship, and a silver medal in the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
|Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon|
Though counting on rookies is generally a recipe for disaster at the international level, McCutcheon’s strategy worked to perfection. By the summer of 2010, Stanford’s indomitable middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo and Penn State’s three-time AVCA All-American Alisha Glass were winning MVP and Best Setter awards at the FIVB World Grand Prix. Later that fall at the World Championships, Nebraska outside hitter Jordan Larson and Texas phenom Destinee Hooker had worked their way into the starting line-up even though veterans Logan Tom (Stanford) and Stacy Sykora (Texas A&M) picked up the All-Tournament Team honors. By the next summer, Hooker had established herself as one of the world’s elite opposites as she was named MVP of the 2011 Grand Prix and Best Spiker of the 2011 World Cup.
The gutsy roster management was made possible by the fact that the team qualified for the London Games in the summer of 2011 at the World Cup. This gave McCutcheon and his staff 12 months to tinker with combinations of skills and personalities, and to challenge those seeking a London roster spot to continuously improve. Reducing the final roster to twelve, always a painful coaching task, must have been particularly challenging. Left off the roster was three-time Olympian and 2008 starter Heather Bown (Hawai'i) and 2010 Grand Prix Best Setter Alisha Glass.
The chosen twelve are made up of two setters - presumed starter and 2008 Olympian, Lindsey Berg (Minnesota), and Courtney Thompson (Washington), two liberos – 2008 Olympian Nicole Davis (USC) and newcomer Tamari Miyashiro (Washington), three outside hitters – four-time Olympian, Logan Tom and newcomers Jordan Larson and Megan Hodge, two opposites, three-time Olympian Tayyiba Haneef-Park (Long Beach State) and newcomer, Destinee Hooker, and three middle blockers – five-time Olympian Danielle Scott-Arruda (Long Beach State), and newcomers, Foluke Akinradewo and Christa Harmotto.
|Courtesy City of Anaheim/Matt Brown|
The lineup contains some surprises that will be judged as brilliant if the result is the USA women’s first gold medal, and will be second-guessed in every volleyball coaching office in America if the result is something different. The biggest gamble from an outsider’s perspective is the selection of Courtney Thompson (5’8”) as the backup setter to Lindsey Berg (5’8”). While Thompson has shown an artful ability to enter matches where the US team is in trouble and change the momentum in positive fashion, this choice leaves Alisha Glass (6’0”) and Carli Lloyd (5’11”) watching the matches from Anaheim. Though no sane volleyball coach picks a setter because she can block, it takes some guts to take two who can’t. A gold medal with these two will go a long way to ending the ‘blocking vs. non-blocking’ setter debate . . . at least for now.
Other questions that will be examined in the next two weeks:
- Is Destinee Hooker ready for the biggest of all stages?
- Can Megan Hodge contribute if she is not a starter?
- If the kids implode, do the vets have the stamina to medal?The answers start Saturday, July 28 at 3 p.m. ET with USA v. Korea.
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