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Hooker leads another volleyball rout

By Stacy St. Clair / Chicago Tribune

LAST UPDATED: 1:31 a.m. HST, Aug 4, 2012

LONDON >> With the U.S. women's volleyball team trailing an inferior Serbian side by three points in the first set on Friday, Destinee Hooker took over.

She served up points, played sharp defense and exploited the tiniest of holes on her opponent's side of court. The American squad never looked back after tying the game, going on to win their pool-round match in three sets at Earls Court.

The 25-17, 25-20, 25-16 victory moved the top-ranked U.S. team's record to 4-0 and ensured that they would finish atop their group with one match remaining.

Hooker, a former University of Texas standout, finished with 19 points, bringing her tournament total to 70 spikes and 12 blocks. She has nearly twice the number of points as the U.S. team's second leading scorer.

"Destinee's obviously doing fantastic," U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon said after the match. "She's a wonderful asset to our team and a great complement to the pieces that we have."

With a powerful combination of sky-high jumps and powerful arm swings, Hooker has become the U.S. star at these games. She is currently the second leading scorer in the tournament, helping her squad uphold its place as gold-medal favorites.

A three-time NCAA outdoor high jump champion, Hooker played in her first international tournament with the team in 2010, joining the squad as an opposite hitter whose leaping ability defined much of her game. Over the past two years, she worked on becoming a more well-rounded player and it has paid dividends for the United States in her Olympic debut.

"She's really come into a different game," said U.S. captain Lindsey Berg of Hawaii. "She's not only a hitter now. She blocks. She plays defense. She's really developed her game to be a volleyball player instead of just this great athlete who jumps high and hits the ball hard."

Hooker, who has been one of the more reticent U.S. players during the Olympics, declined interview requests after the match, citing a need for treatment on her arm. McCutcheon, however, said there are no major health concerns.

"She takes a lot of swings and I know that she's a little gassed," he said. "I don't think that there's anything to worry about too much. She's very mindful of her recovery and we've got a lot of tournament left."

The United States will face Turkey in its final pool-round match Sunday before advancing to the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

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