POSTED: 11:08 a.m. HST, Aug 3, 2012
LONDON >> Destinee Hooker scored 19 points and the U.S. women's volleyball team clinched the top spot in their pool with a preliminary-round victory over Serbia in straight sets Friday at the London Olympics.
The top-ranked United States has won all four of its matches in London, dropping just two sets. The team, which has never won Olympic gold in volleyball, is among the favorites to medal in London.
Logan Tom added 12 points for the United States in the 25-17, 25-20, 25-16 sweep. The team — which includes Punahou alum Lindsey Berg and Kalani graduate Tamari Miyashiro — will wrap up the preliminary round with a match against Turkey on Sunday.
There are two six-team pools in the preliminary round. The top four in each advance to the quarterfinals.
The U.S. women brought the silver home from Beijing after falling in the final to Brazil. In an early-round rematch in London, the U.S. came away with a 3-1 victory over the second-ranked Brazilians.
Hugh McCutcheon, who led the American men to the gold medal in Beijing before shifting to the women's team, led the U.S. to the top spot in the international rankings late last year to end Brazil's four-year run at No. 1.
China, Serbia, Turkey and South Korea are also in the pool with the U.S. and Brazil, which is unexpectedly fighting to advance to the quarterfinals.
Japan, Russia, Italy, Algeria, the Dominican Republic and Britain make up the other pool.
The U.S. team was workmanlike in its victory over Serbia. Tom had five points in the first set, capping it with a kill.
Seventh-ranked Serbia, which finished fifth in Beijing, took an 8-7 lead in the second set on Brankica Mihajlovic's block. But the United States quickly rebounded and took the set when Jovana Brakocevic's spike went wide.
The United States won it when Mihajlovic served into the net.
Serbia is eliminated from the quarterfinals with the loss. The United States was respectful with a muted celebration.
Brazil stayed alive in the preliminary round with a 3-2 victory over China on Friday morning. Now 2-2, Brazil is still on the ropes with one match left against last-place Serbia on Sunday.
"It was a difficult match, but we knew the difficulties," Brazilian captain Fabiana Oliveira said after 25-16 20-25, 25-18, 28-30, 15-10 victory over China. "We had a lot of pressure because we knew that if we lose, we could have been out of the Olympic Games."
The Chinese women, who are also 2-2 but have the points advantage over the Brazilians because of sets won, were hampered without 6-foot-2-inch spiker Wang Yimei, who has struggled with an ankle injury during the games and played just the opening set against Brazil.
Known for her powerful jump serve, Wang was coming off of surgery to repair ligament damage in her right ankle. She appeared to re-injure it in a loss to the United States on Wednesday night.
Brazil wasn't helped when Turkey defeated South Korea 25-16, 21-25, 25-18, 19-25, 15-12 in a later match on Friday. Neslihan Darnel had 27 points to lead Turkey, which improved to 2-2 and edged ahead of Brazil in the points standings for the fourth spot in Pool B.
Turkey won despite missing middle blocker Eda Erden, who injured her ankle earlier in the competition.
Making its first Olympic appearance in women's volleyball, Turkey faces a challenge against the United States in its final match of the preliminary round on Sunday.
Russia defeated Japan 3-1 (27-25, 25-17, 20-25, 25-19) to improve to 4-0 in Pool A. Japan falls to 2-2.
Ekaterina Gamova, Russia's 6-foot-8 opposite, had 29 points in the match. The Russians had already clinched their place in the next round.
The Dominican Republic won its first match of the Olympics with a sweep of Britain. Bethania de la Cruz de Pena had 12 points in the 25-9, 25-18, 25-19 win, which puts the Dominican Republic ahead of Britain.
Britain, playing in the Olympics as the hosts, surprised everyone by defeating Algeria earlier in the competition. Ranked 69th in the world, the British were not expected to win very many sets, let alone a match.