LONDON >> The U.S. women’s volleyball team defeated Brazil 3-1 today at the Olympics in an early-round rematch of the Beijing Games final won by the Brazilians.
Destinee Hooker had 23 points and Jordan Larson added 18 for the top-ranked Americans, who won 25-18, 25-17, 22-25, 25-21 to improve to 2-0 in pool play at Earls Court.
Sheilla Castro had 15 points for No. 2 Brazil, which was energized after a third-set victory but lost on Logan Tom’s floater in the fourth set. Tom is playing in her fourth Olympics.
“I call her the glue,” coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “She holds this team together.”
Brazil has lost five straight international matches to the U.S. The teams are 21-21 in career play.
Larson, a wing spiker making her Olympic debut, hit a floater to put the Americans up 23-17 in the first set. She spiked for set point, with Brazil looking out of sorts.
The U.S. pulled away in the second set with a 7-point run, capped by Tom’s spike. Brazil twice held off the U.S. at set point and had some momentum, until Hooker’s kill ended it.
Brazil went up 8-3 early in the third, but the Americans rallied for a 16-15 lead on Christa Harmotto’s block. It was back and fourth until Harmotto’s attempt to return Thaisa Menezes’ spike went awry.
The result left the Brazilians at 1-1 in the pool.
“Now is not the time to think about the game, but to think about the next steps,” Brazilian captain Fabiana Oliveira said, adding the match might be a preview of the final.
The Americans took the top spot in the world rankings at the end of 2011, ending Brazil’s four-year run at No. 1.
The Brazilians began Olympic play by defeating Turkey in five sets. The U.S. opened with a 3-1 victory over South Korea behind Hooker’s 21 points.
“She’s really coming into a different game. She’s not only a good hitter now, she blocks and she’s playing some defense,” said captain Lindsey Berg of Hawaii. “She’s really developed her game to be a volleyball player instead of just this great athlete that jumps high and hits the ball hard.”
China, Serbia, Turkey and South Korea are in the six-team pool with the U.S. and Brazil. Japan, Russia, Italy, Algeria, the Dominican Republic and Britain make up the other pool. The top four teams from each group advance to the quarterfinals.
The U.S. has been playing well under McCutcheon, who coached the U.S. men to the gold medal in Beijing before shifting to the women’s team. The American women have never won an Olympic gold medal in volleyball. The sport joined the Olympics in 1964.
“I think our best is yet to come,” McCutcheon said. “We certainly had some areas that we can improve on. … But that’s the great thing about this team, they keep trying to master their craft.”
The U.S. will play China on Wednesday night, followed by Brazil’s match against South Korea.
In Monday’s earlier matches, China moved to 2-0 in its group after defeating Turkey, 3-1 (25-20, 25-20, 29-31, 25-22). Kim Yeon-Koung had a staggering 34 points to lead South Korea to a 3-1 victory over Serbia. South Korea is 1-1 in its pool. Russia went up 2-0 in pool play after downing the Dominican Republic 3-1 (25-23, 25-15, 24-26, 25-22).