|Phil Bush, FIVB Broadcaster|
Over the previous three decades, you'd be hard pressed to find someone in athletics 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 FSN 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.
Wednesday, 11AM ET
Team USA took care of business to win their pool and move on to the quarterfinals. The interesting thing about the this round is that several matches have some regional implications, including Russia and Poland facing off, and Brazil matching up with Argentina. The fourth match is the Pool A winner, Bulgaria, squaring off with Germany. I doubt anyone would have predicted these match-ups when the Olympics began!
The USA and Italy are no strangers to one another, last playing in Dallas about a month ago in World League. To go to the World League Final round, the USA had to win that match and they did just that, eventually falling to Poland (who the USA may see later) in the Finals. So here we are in a must-win situation yet again.
Highlights from the USA-Italy World League match:
Of course, now that we are in the quarterfinals, there are no “easy” matches. All will be very competitive because of the "win or go home" format, meaning there will be some teams with very long journeys back to their home country, and for others, the flight will be a celebration!
Where do I think the USA stands in all of this?
I think the USA has gotten better and better dating back to the beginning of World League - which seems like a long time ago - in May, when the USA was beaten by Italy, and then France. These early round matches had people kind of wondering where the U.S. was going. We should congratulate this team and head coach Alan Knipe for the steps forward they've taken that has kept up during the Olympics.
I actually like the rematch with Italy. The USA also had a chance to get players some extra rest with their final pool play match against Tunisia, including Clay Stanley and David Lee, who did not play at all. David Smith, David McKienzie, PaulLotman, Sean Rooney, Russell Holmes and Brian Thornton all had a chance to play long stretches. This should help the USA against Italy by having fresh players on the floor, as well as the bench being ready to come in and help if needed.
For the USA to move to the semifinals, there are some areas to watch:
- Reid Priddy comes up big, but not necessarily as you think. Priddy is the heart and soul of Team USA, and that is where he is extremely valuable. That is not a knock on his physical abilities as much as it is a credit to the intangibles he brings to the table. With that being said, he is also one of the keys offensively, accumulating 17 points in their win over No. 1 Brazil earlier in pool play. As further evidence that Priddy is more than just another "intangibles guy," Knipe thought so highly of Priddy as a pure talent that he rested him against the "happy to be here" Tunisians.
- Transition will be key. It has been very good for the USA through much of the Olympics. Ensure that it stays in place at a high level, especially early in this match against Italy.
- Don’t lose focus in at each particular moment. I don’t think that will be a problem since this is a must-win situation. Look for the bench to be up and loud during the match to help the team focus.
Against the USA, look for the Italian offense to be spread a little more than usual, but nothing the USA has not already seen from Brazil or Russia. We may also get another look at Alessandro Fei, who may see time at opposite, as he played very well against the USA the last time these teams squared off!
Team Italy's Player to Watch: Michal Lasko